Vallenato Legend Festival

The Vallenato Legend Festival (Spanish: Festival de la Leyenda Vallenata) is one of the most important musical festivals in Colombia. The Festival features a vallenato music contests for best interpreter of accordion, caja vallenata and guacharaca, as well as piqueria (battle of lyrics) and best song. It’s celebrated every year in April in the city of Valledupar, Department of Cesar.[1]

Vallenato Legend Festival
Festival vallenato.jpg
Vallenato Legend Festival, main venue
GenreVallenato, Folk
DatesEnd of April (usually four days)
Years activeevery year since 1967


Its origin dates back to 1968 when the celebrated vallenato composer Rafael Escalona, the then governor of the state of Cesar and former president of the republic of Colombia, Alfonso López Michelsen, and the writer, journalist and former Minister of Culture Consuelo Araújo, came up with the idea of organizing a festival that celebrated vallenato, a musical genre that’s autochthonous to Colombia’s northern atlantic coast and also celebrate a religious festivity of "The Virgin of the Rosario".

Since 1986, the organization of this festival rests in the hands of the Fundación Festival de la Leyenda Vallenata (Vallenato Legend Festival Foundation) a non-profit private entity in charge of the promotion, publicity and defense of vallenato music as one of the immaterial cultural legacies of Colombia.

The Legend: The legend says that during the Spanish colonial period, two amerindian tribes from the Tairona culture; the Tupe and the Chimila, along with other members of other tribes, rebelled against the Spanish colonizers after one indigenous woman named Francisca who worked as a maid for a Spanish family was severely punished by her jealous master, who cut her hair and whipped her publicly. One of her fellow Indian tribesmen also working for the Spaniards, escaped and told his tribe's cacique about this offensive insult. The angry Indians organized an attack, destroying most of the town and killing many people. When trying to destroy the temple, the "Virgin of the Rosario" appeared and with her cape blocked their arrows preventing them from destroying it. The natives, scared, escaped to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, and knowing that the Spaniards would follow them and would be in need of drinking water, they poisoned the "Sicarare lake". This resulted in the death of all the Spaniards involved. The Virgin reappeared and began touching their bodies with her wand and reviving them. The surprised Indians finally surrendered.

The ContestsEdit

The most important event during the celebration of this festival is the vallenato musical contest. The winners are chosen by a vallenato experienced jury that evaluate the contestants’ prowess in the four main rhythms which are paseo, son, puya and merengue. There are several categories in which the contestants may participate including: "professional accordion player", "amateur accordion player", "young accordion player", "best new vallenato song", and piquerías (in which each competitor's goal is to 'diss' their opponent through clever lyrics).

Besides the annual winners, there is also a special award given to renowned vallenato composers and performers, a statuette known as La Pilonera Mayor, which is given in recognition of the recipient’s dedication to vallenato music. La Pilonera Mayor is the highest honor given to a vallenato musician in Colombia and only six composers have received it until now. This award is given in honoris memoriam of disappeared Consuelo Araújo.

  • Judges for competitions are selected by the Board of Directors of the Vallenato Legend Festival Foundation (Fundacion Festival de la Leyenda Vallenata) and must be affiliated members.

King of KingsEdit

The Rey de Reyes festival editions occur every 10 years, since 1987 and only previous winners can participate. The first winner was Colacho Mendoza, followed by Gonzalo "Cocha" Molina, the third King of Kings Hugo Carlos Granados won on May 1, 2007.


La Pilonera Mayor Award: Emiliano Zuleta Baquero, Rafael Escalona, Leandro Díaz, Calixto Ochoa, Adolfo Pacheco and Tobías Enrique Pumarejo.

No Year Professional Accordion Player Amateur Accordion Player Juvenile Accordion Player Infant Accordion Player Composer of New Vallenato Song Winning song Piqueria
1 1968 Alejo Duran none none none none none none
2 1969 Nicolás Mendoza Emiliano Zuleta Díaz none none Gustavo Gutiérrez Rumores de viejas voces none
3 1970 Calixto Ochoa Emilio Oviedo none Ciro Meza Reales Freddy Molina El indio desventurado none
4 1971 Alberto Pacheco Carmencito Mendoza Antolin Arias Adiel Vega Santander Duran Lamento Arhuaco none
5 1972 Miguel López Ciro Meza Reales (Semiprofesional: Alberto Rada) none Luciano Poveda Camilo Namén Recordando mi niñez none
6 1973 Luis Enrique Martínez Egidio Cuadrado (Semiprofesional: Álvaro Cabas) none Raúl Martínez Armando Zabaleta No vuelvo a Patillal none
7 1974 Alfredo Gutiérrez Alberto Villa (Semiprofessional José María Argote) none Gustavo Maestre Nicolás Maestre El Hachero none
8 1975 Julio De la Ossa Raúl Martínez (Semiprofesional: Luis Villa) none Orangel Maestre none in 1st place none in 1st place none
9 1976 Nafer Durán Álvaro López (Semiprofesional: José María Ramos) none Fernando Dangond Julio Onate La Profecía none
10 1977 José María Ramos Adiel Vega none Navin López Alonso Fernández Yo soy Vallenato none
11 1978 Alfredo Gutiérrez Carlos Arrieta none Jose Alfonso Maestre Octavio Daza Río Badillo none
12 1979 Rafael Salas Álvaro López none Jose Vásquez Pedro García El Poeta Pintor Andrés Beleno
13 1980 Elberto López Navín López none Hugo Carlos Granados Tomás Darío Gutiérrez Voz de accordeones Luis Manjarrez
14 1981 Raúl Martínez Álvaro Meza none Miguel Avendano Fernando Dangond Nacio mi Poesía Wilman Rodríguez
15 1982 Eliecer Ochoa Gonzalo Molina none José López Gustavo Gutiérrez Paisaje de Sol Antonio Salas
16 1983 Julio Rojas Segundo Vanegas none Raúl Vega Julio Díaz Yo soy el acordeón Alcides Manjarrez
17 1984 Orangel Maestre Carlos Bracho none Aider Vega Juvenal Daza La Espinita Alcides Manjarrez
18 1985 Egidio Cuadrado Omar Geles none Gustavo Osorio Emiliano Zuleta Díaz Mi Acordeón José Villero
19 1986 Alfredo Gutiérrez Hugo Carlos Granados none Juan David Herrera Rafael Manjarrez Ausencia Sentimental Ivo Díaz
20 1987 Nicolás Mendoza Omar Geles none No 1st place Santander Duran La Canción del Valor none
21 1988 Alberto Villa Hildelmaro Bolanos none Iván Zuleta Marciano Martínez Con el alma en la mano Juan Oviedo
22 1989 Omar Gelles Juan Carlos Ovalle none Harold Rivera José F. Mejía Puya Almojabanera Luis M. Onate
23 1990 Gonzalo Molina Juan David Herrera none Jaime Bornacelli José F. Mejía No hay tierra como mi tierra Rafael Zuleta
24 1991 Julián Rojas Álvaro Meza none Saúl Soto Gustavo Calderón Mementos del ayer José Bornacelli
25 1992 Álvaro López Juan José Granados none Franklin Vega Hernando Marín Valledupar del alma No 1st place
26 1993 Alberto Rada Manuel Vega none Víctor Beltrán Ivo Díaz Dame tu alma Alcides Manjarrez
27 1994 Julio Rojas Iván Zuleta none Sergio Luis Rodríguez Iván Ovalle Yo vivo enamorado del valle Guillermo Arzuaga
28 1995 Freddy Sierra Harold Rivera none Sergio Iguarán Hortensia Lanao ¿Qué hago, Señor? Andrés Barros
29 1996 Juan David Herrera Moisés Polo none Marlon González Alfonso Cotes Maya La cabeza de Pavajeau Wilman Felizzola
30 1997 Gonzalo Molina Hugo Carlos Granados none Sergio Luis Rodríguez Emiliano Zuleta Díaz Mi pobre valle No 1st place
31 1998 Saúl Lallemand Ramón Villa none Ángel Torres Luis Cujía; Ramiro Garrido; Sergio Moya; Luis Ramírez Yo soy el cantor; Yo soy el son; recuerdos de viejos tiempos; puya del folklor José Ariza
32 1999 Hugo Carlos Granadaos Deivis Rivera none Manuel José Martínez Félix Carrillo; Winston Muegues; Antonia Daza; Deimer Marin Mi pobre acordeón; Los barrios del valle; El orgullo de nacer; Maestro de maestros Julio Cárdenas
33 2000 José María Ramos Jr. Nemer Yesid Tetay none Luis José Villa Guete Santander Duran Escalona Cantares de vaqueria José Bornacelli
34 2001 Álvaro Meza Reales Christian Camilo Peña none Yosimar Rodríguez Winston Muegues La Estratificación Julio Salas
35 2002 Navín López Araujo Marlon González none Camilo Carvajal Cuadro Melquisedec Namen Rapalino Vestida de gloria José Félix Ariza
36 2003 Ciro Meza Reales John Jaider Suárez Luis Villa Guete Jairo De la Ossa Otero Martha Guerra Un soncito tolimense Teobaldo Penalosa
37 2004 Harold Rivera Omar Hernández Fernando Rangel Molina Carlos Mario Ramírez Guillermo Doria Borrero Raíces de Oro José Félix Ariza
38 2005 Juan José Granados Ángel Torres Arroyo Mauricio de Santis Camilo Andres Molina Julio César Daza Sueno Vallenato Julio Cárdenas
39 2006 Alberto Jamaica Rodolfo de la Valle Escorcia Javier Rogrigo Álvarez Jesús Ocampo Ospino Ever Jiménez El Valle es tu casa Rubén Ariza
40 2007 Hugo Carlos Granados Ómar Hernández Brochero Rodolfo Miguel Molina Meza Yeimy Arrieta Santander Duran Escalona Entre cantores José Dolores Bornacelly

Dances and other eventsEdit

Piloneras Parade: This traditional dance was recovered from extinction in 1994 thanks to the Vallenato Legend Festival Foundation effort, and was added to the festival's programming as the opening show. This dance is traditional of the magdalena river reveres. Traditionally Dancers paraded on the streets using a giant wooden mortar and pestle, (usually used to squash corn and produce corn flour), the men and women danced around the 'corn smashing' in a courteous and flirting way, dancing in front of friend's houses to receive liquor in exchange. But the festival kept the dance and turned it into a competition among groups of Piloneros and whoever exposes the best show becomes the winner. There are three categories; Infants, youth and adults.

Other events:

  • Record labels present their best artists and orchestras throughout the Festival, usually before, during recess of events and after competition.
  • Many Nightclubs and Event Centers offer alternative parties with vallenato musical groups and other orchestras.
  • Certain families affiliated to this Festival often throw open "parrandas" or parties to special guests and friends.
  • The Festival also sponsors cultural activities related to the festival; debates, symposia, panel discussions, traditional storytelling, paintings expositions, artesanias and book expositions, among other cultural events.
  • Valledupar and surrounding towns have cockfight arenas, that have tournaments during the Festival dates. This sport considered brutal for some represent a major attraction for locals and some tourists, but are not sponsored by the Vallenato Legend Festival. This sport is a strong traditional hobby for some locals (passion for some) mixed with vallenato "parrandas" and lots of gambling.

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