by Raul Menchaca
HAVANA, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- Puppet shows aren't just for children anymore, as Havana's Puppets Bacchanal for Adults is proving this week.
The fourth edition of this puppet festival delves into grownup themes, such as violence against women in Latin America, told through traditional and innovative puppetry techniques.
"The puppet has been lost as a form of expression for adults, it has been preserved only for children, and what we are trying to revive is the idea that the puppet is a form of expression that is valid for all ages," Esther Suarez, head of the Bacchanal's organizing committee, told Xinhua.
Some 20 performance groups at the festival represent a wide range of puppetries, from hand puppets to Chinese shadow puppets.
"We have as guest performers (Mexico's) Butoh Chilango, whose shows combine dancing with animated figures," said Suarez.
The all-female six-member Mexican troupe combines elements of Japan's expressive Butoh dance with puppets for a dramatic effect.
At Havana's Mella Theater, the group staged "Heaven," which features an eight-meter tall dismembered puppet as it pays tribute to the victims of the Tlatelolco Massacre of student protesters in 1968, as well as the numerous women killed in Mexico in recent years.
Apart from the shows, the festival organized a forum, discussing the future of adult puppetry, and specialized workshops for puppeteers, as well as playwrights, set designers, filmmakers, musicians and artistic directors.
The first festival took place in 2012 with Cuban puppeteers from around the country, and was such a success that subsequent festivals have drawn more and more international companies.
This year, the festival even features a competitive event: the Puppeteers' Olympics, in which 14 puppeteers from different companies showcase their skills in manipulating the puppets.
Each edition of the Bacchanal helps to ensure puppetry continues to thrive in Cuba, since becoming a popular form of entertainment in the 1940s.
Cuban puppetry pioneer Modesto Centeno's 1943 version of the classic children's fairy tale "Little Red Riding Hood" was a hit.
After the 1959 Revolution which brought about deep socio-political changes on the island, puppet theater experienced a cultural boom, with theatrical groups popping up throughout the country.
The festival has attracted puppeteers from Argentina and Spain, as well as Mexico, with shows staged at the city's different theaters through Sunday.