Quema del Diablo Art & Music Festival

A Celebration Based on the Guatemalan Tradition of Clearing the Bad and Rising Anew

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By Regan Ramirez

Rolo Castillo, artist extraordinaire, is once again gathering everyone to the Joshua Tree Retreat Center for a Quema del Diablo Art and Music Festival. This intimate event provides a unique, cultural experience. The name and concept behind this festival stems from a Guatemalan holiday where people would “burn the devil” by building bonfires outside of their homes at the end of the year. Castillo explains how the festival embodies the idea of, “getting rid of all the bad vibes.” He explained further, “We can have a New Year’s resolution, but it does not resolve what we have gone through. It’s different for everyone.”

While this event varies for everyone, it still exudes a huge sense of community. Castillo says, “You really feel the togetherness, the desire for a new start, the letting go.” The festival invites everyone to celebrate and let go of the burdens and hardships of the past year, burn the bad energy, and progress toward the coming year with a new mindset. All these things take place in a safe environment, surrounded by beautiful art, passionate music, and loving neighbors.

Rolo Castillo and his wife Terry have lived in Joshua Tree for seven years following many years of traveling back and forth between Joshua Tree and Los Angeles. One day, they packed up all their belongings and headed to Joshua Tree, and never turned back. Castillo used to put on art shows in galleries but now he focuses on art expression through everyday life and intertwines community with his love of art. “I like opening up spaces for people to be able to express their talent together. I jump into a different state of mind for what it is that I want to accomplish. The things I like to do just happen to involve community, through the arts and through music.”  Castillo’s wife, Terry, is the director of the Joshua Tree Retreat Center, home of Edwin Dingle’s vision for The Institute of Mentalphysics. People can practice yoga, breathwork, crystal chakra meditation, community sound baths, and more. The Retreat Center boasts a vegetarian cafe and a bookstore. It’s the perfect spot for a personal retreat, offering a beautiful space to reflect, renew, and recharge.

Castillo first had the idea for this festival when he was in his twenties while putting on shows. He didn’t want to do a Dia de los Muertos festival; he was looking for something different. The Guatemalan holiday, Quema del Diablo, caught his attention. Castillo explains that artists have a hard time around the holidays due to frequent travel and being away from their loved ones. He saw this as a holiday where they could gather and celebrate and burn old art they didn’t want to sell or hold onto any longer, for various reasons. The holiday, considered a cleansing ritual at the end of the year, where all bad energy is to be rid from one’s life, is truly an extraordinary concept for a festival experience. People attending the festival can also expect to witness the burning of several large papier mâché devils during the evening.

The festival boasts an intriguing variety of music. “It’s not about a specific music scene. It’s pretty eclectic,” shares Castillo. Joshua Tree treasure, Victoria Williams, will perform. Williams toured with Neil Young before Multiple Sclerosis put her music career on pause. She was the inspiration for Sweet Relief, a compilation album, where bands like Soul Asylum, Pearl Jam, and others recorded her songs to help her meet medical bills. Williams will perform with local ensemble, The Clouds.  Another local musician, John Curry, who used to be a part of the band, The Plugs, will perform, as will Robbi Robb, who once toured as an opening act for Pearl Jam. Robb will make a substantial contribution this year, performing and helping with sound on the main stage. “All the bands are participating out of their love for what we are doing here,” Castillo stated.  Castillo promises that the sound will not blow the place out of the water; they want to be respectful of their human and animal neighbors. Attendees can expect something more like an intimate backyard party than a large festival. “I want to give the space a look of an old town celebrating,” he shared. “It’s like celebrating the holidays in a backyard, but you’re doing it with the whole town. Everyone’s invited.”

The festival sold 700 tickets in the previous celebration, and there were around 1,000 people in attendance, including the bands, artists, their guests, and other locals. This year, the art, music, and vendors will all be there in full force, but Castillo has reduced the ticket sales to 200. This gives the festival a much more intimate scene. The festival includes an art garden for viewing, beginning at noon. Artists like Cybele Rowe, known for her amazing ceramic sculptures, and Colette Miller, known for her street art, Global Angel Wings Project, will have displays. There will be six to eight foot sculptures throughout the grounds. People will be dressed in costumes, and face painting will be held on site. There will be street performers during the day, and large puppets roaming the crowd. Festival goers can expect a lot of visual fun. All ticket sales will go towards The Joshua Tree Retreat Center.

The Quema de Diablo Art & Music Festival is on December 4th at noon at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center, 59700 Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree, CA 92252

Tickets can be purchased HERE

Important Note: The Joshua Tree Retreat Center will have a ribbon cutting ceremony at 11 am on December 4th for its new arts garden, curated by Rolo Castillo. The arts garden will receive a dedication proclamation from Arts Connection, the Arts Council of San Bernardino County. The sculpture garden includes work by artists Cybele Rowe, Kim Stringfellow, Lilli Muller, Mark Bulwinkle, Keith Greco, Collette Miller, Juan Thorp, and Shig, among others. The ceremony will be followed by a musical lineup to include Janie Cowan, John Curry and Tumbleweed Time Machine.

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