ARPATUR 2009 Summary Report

ARPATUR, a mission of Harping for Harmony Foundation in Venezuela

I spent the month of November, 2009, in rural Venezuela, chiefly in the region known as the llanos, in the states of Apure, Barinas, and Portuguesa. This was my fifth sojourn in the region; we have come to call these trips ARPATUR (harp tour). Over several seasons, ARPATUR has helped to draw attention and prestige to the strong traditional music of harp, cuatro and maracas.

During the first week, I traveled with four companions, visiting traditional musicians in towns and villages, and on farms. The party consisted of Adolfo Cardozo, singer and professor of agriculture; Fernando Guerrero, lawyer and pedal harpist from Caracas; Adolfo's wife Erika Escobar; and my brother Dan. See details of "La Baecera Initiative" below.

After the first week, I settled in Barinas and studied intensively with harpist Jose Gregorio Lopez, better known as "Goyo." I also attended harp classes at the Casa de la Cultura. Also, on several occasions I visited Caney del Arpa in Guanare, where harpist Aurelio Rodriguez (better known as "Longo") performs with other musicians in a longstanding circle of friends.

La Baecera Initiative

The focal point of ARPATUR 2009 was on the first Saturday night at La Baecera, a rural settlement of scattered ranches near Elorza. Adolfo and Erika had taken me each year to spend a couple of days to her family farm, El Coromoto. On this occasion about 50 friends, neighbors and relatives had gathered to celebrate the inauguration of a folk arts school, called the Semillero de Arpa y Joropo de La Baecera "Tio Esteban y Juana Romero" (workshop for harp and dance at La Baecera honoring Uncle Stephen and Juana Romero). At this stage, the school is not a physical place but rather a meetingplace of minds interested in cultural preservation. At the celebration, a harp, a cuatro and a pair of maracas were presented to the new school.

The turnout was very satisfying to Adolfo and Erika, who proclaimed the event a resounding success.

Tio Esteban was a harpist, a neighbor and relative, who played for dances a generation ago. Juana Romero, also a neighbor, was a beloved dancer and teacher. Tio Esteban and Juana Romero are both remembered in the lyrics of a song recorded by popular singer Alfredo Parra.

El Tuco, the local harpist at the celebration, learned to play from Tio Esteban. Tuco will be the first  harp teacher in the new school. According to Fernando, Tuco's style of harping is very authentic, simple, and typical. A landless leatherworker, now in his 50's, Tuco cultivates a garden with a wife and daughter. Tuco's harp has been in disrepair for some time, so he can only play when another harp is available. His harp was sent for repair, and another harp left with him for his use. Recently, Adolfo reports that Tuco and his wife and daughter all play the harp on a daily basis.

Barinas Harp School and Private Study

At the government-sponsored Casa de la Cultura in Barinas, various classes are offered for children and adults, including harp as well as guitar, dance, puppetry, painting and more. I was readily accepted at the Oswaldo Zapata's harp classes which are offered two days a week for 2 hours. I was also referred to Jose Gregorio Lopez as a private harp instructor. Given my limited time, I resolved to take advantage of both opportunities.

I attended about 6 harp classes. These classes attracted as many as a dozen participants, mostly male children and adolescents, but also including two females who appeared on one or more occasions.

In Zapata's classes, I saw a great enthusiasm for the harp from these young people. Most of them were technically advanced well beyond my level. Classes were held in a small patio, with everyone playing at once. It was difficult to hear oneself over the din. The teacher went from one student to another, observing technique and making suggestions. In this situation, I did not command much attention from the teacher. As days passed, I got a bit more attention from Zapata as I began to display what I was learning from Goyo Lopez. I was never asked to pay for these classes. Quite properly, Zapata dedicated his attention to his young students and not to me, an outsider who would likely never amount to much. I later discovered that Zapata himself was a student of Goyo Lopez.

Concurrently with Zapata's classes, I studied privately with Jose Gregorio "Goyo" Lopez, who turned out to be an excellent teacher and generous spirit. In the days ahead I had a lesson almost every day, and twice on some days. Goyo also encouraged me to make video recordings.

My experience with Goyo Lopez was much more productive in personal terms. However, Zapata's harp class at Casa de la Cultura deserves a great deal of credit for sustaining the cultural tradition.

Harping for Harmony Foundation Involvement

Harping for Harmony Foundation invested $5552 in ARPATUR 2009. $1000 was earmarked by the board specifically toward the purchase of a computer for Adolfo. Airfare was $1252. The balance of $3300 is shown in the accounts as per diem for 33 days at $100/day.

Actual per diem costs were lower, offset in many instances by private hospitality (room and board). Funds  thus saved were in turn used to offer reciprocity including meals, supplies, remunerations and donations of various sorts. Harpist Tuco received $50 for lessons he gave me; Goyo Lopez received $300; Tuco's harp was sent for repair at a cost of $200; the La Baecera folk school initiative received $300.

I give much credit to the harp class at Casa de la Cultura, but did not offer any financial support as it is a governmentally funded institution.


ARPATUR 2009: November 3-11, 2009

Programa: IV ARPATUR-Venezuela, 2009
Organización Turística: Asociación Cooperativa LOMACRILLAN (Lo Mas Criollito del Llano Venezolano)
Anfitriones: Adolfo F. Cardozo B. y Erika Escobar

Programa General:

General Program:

Martes 03 de Noviembre (2009): Llegada y bienvenida del grupo internacional al aeropuerto de Maiquetía, La Guaira-Caracas, Venezuela. Reunión del grupo ArpaTur-2009 y salida hacia hacia Valencia, Edo. Carabobo. Punto de encuentro con Adolfo y Erika, estación “Mi Bohío”. Salida hacia el pueblo de El Baúl (Cuna de Grandes Arpistas Venezolano), alojamiento en posada y  descanso. Noche: Encuentro con arpistas de El Baúl y pernocta.

Tuesday 11/3 arrival of international group at airport, departure to Valencia, State of Carabobo. Meet there with Adolfo and Erika at service station Mi Bohio. Depart to El Baul, for lodging and rest. Night: meet with harpists of El Baul.

Miércoles 04 de Noviembre (2009. Salida desde El Baúl hacia “San Fernando”, la capital del llano de Apure. Encuentro con el conocido maestro arpista y fabricante de arpas Carlos Pe)raza y otros cultores, paseo por el “Malecón del Río Apure”. Pernocta en hotel de la ciudad de San Fernando.

Wednesday 11/4 Leave El Baul toward San Fernando, capital of the plains of Apure State. Meet with harpist and harpmaker Carlos Peraza and others, visit the waterfront of Rio Apure, stay the night in hotel in San Fernando

Jueves 05 de Noviembre (2009). Salida temprano al pueblo de Achaguas y encuentro con los arpistas Armando Guerrero, Euro Oliveros y otros cultores, paseo en fundo “La Molinera” y pernocta en Achaguas.
Thursday 11/5 early departure to Achaguas, meet with harpists Armando Guerrero, Euro Olivero and others; visit the ranch "La Molinera" and spend the night in Achaguas.

Viernes 06 de Noviembre (2009). Salida temprano de Achaguas hacia Guanare, descanso en la tarde. Noche: Visita al  “Caney del Arpa”, con el Maestro “Longo”, Sra. Ligia y demás amigos de ArpaTur-Venezuela. Pernocta en hotel de Guanare.

Friday 11/6 early departure from Achaguas to Guanare, rest in the afternoon. Night: visit Caney del Arpa, with host and harpist Maestro "Longo," Senora Ligia and other friends from previous harp tour visits. Stay in Guanare hotel.

Sábado 07 de Noviembre (2009). Salida desde Guanare hacia La Baecera, Edo. Apure. paradas a ver los lindos “Garceros del Llano”. Encuentro con la comunidad de La Baecera. Inicio de “Escuela de Arpa Infantil Tío Esteban”. El grupo ArpaTur Venezuela-2009 donará un arpa, cuatro y maracas a esta escuela y compartirá con ellos la tarde. Toque de “Arpa Sabanera” y pernocta en el fundo. “La Coromoto”.

Saturday 11/7 Travel from Guanare to La Baecera, State of Apure; visit the "garceros" (roosting areas) to watch birds; meet with community of La Baecera; initiate the "Uncle Steven Harp School for Children" at which the ARPATUR visitors will donate a harp, cuatro and maracas; harp jam session; spend the night at ranch "La Coromoto."

Domingo 08 de Noviembre (2009). Salida desde La Baecera hacia Elorza, paseo corto en Elorza y salida hacia el caserío “El Charal”, visita al Arpista campesino y fabricante de arpas Sr. Jesús Colmenarez. Continuación del viaje hacia la población fronteriza de Arauca-Colombia ubicada a la margen derecha del Río Arauca, encuentro con arpistas locales y el Prof. Luís Rodríguez de la Universidad local. Pernocta en Arauca.

Sunday 11/8 Travel from La Baecera to Elorza and on to the village of "El Charal" to visit harpist and harpmaker Sr. Jesus Colmenarez. Continue to Arauca, frontier with Colombia, meet with local harpists and with Prof. Luis Rodriguez of the local university; spend the night in Arauca.

Lunes 09 de Noviembre (2006). Salida  desde Arauca hacia la ciudad de Barinas. Visita y compartir con el gran maestro arpista Omar Moreno Gil y otros cultores populares, pernocta en Barinas.

Monday 11/9 Travel from Arauca to Barinas; visit master harpist Omar Moreno Gil and others; spend the night in Barinas.

Martes 10 de Noviembre (2009). Regreso a Guanare, despedida y otras actividades de los miembros del Tour que continúan.

Tuesday 11/10 Formal end of ARPATUR; members may elect to return to Guanare, or go elsewhere, or to FLY FROM BARINAS to connect with international flight from Caracas


(Email or phone John Lozier, 304-276-5141 if you are interested in participating)


Since 2005, I have traveled each year to rural Venezuela, collaborating with singer and professor of agriculture Adolfo Cardozo, pursuing our common interests in sustainable agriculture, environmental educationand arpa llanera (traditional harp music).

ARPATUR is our shared commitment to a very special kind of tourism - a wholesome tourism with real people, in real rural settings.

ARPATUR can offer tours of one or more weeks to rural Venezuela. Each tour takes advantages of opportunities currently available, and caters to the special interests of participants. In any case, ARPATUR includes a mix of traditional music, sustainable agriculture, and environmental education.

For MUSICIANS, ARPATUR is focused on visiting TRADITIONAL MUSICIANS, especially harpists.

For RANCHERS, ARPATUR is focused on visits to WORKING FARMS AND RANCHES with special attention to LIVESTOCK, particularly cattle, hogs, goats, and poultry.

For FARMERS AND GARDENERS, ARPATUR incorporates a focus on SMALL HOUSEHOLD diversified horticulture and animal husbandry, sustainable practices, and value-added enterprises.

ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION and observation of flora and fauna are always part of ARPATUR.

Each group can includes more than ten participants.  The ideal group contains a mix of particular interests, hopefully including musicians, farmers, and students.

Please contact John Lozier concerning your special interests and current plans.inquire about alternate dates and/or custom group travel.

COST is expected to be about $1500 per week, excluding international air fare.