Cuenca High Life logo

Cuenca News

New series at La Guarida, ‘Canelazo Stories,’ celebrates the ancient tradition of storytelling

By Jeff Salz

Storytelling is the most ancient form of human communication. According to science, it remains the most effective. Ever notice how facts, data, ideas, and opinions all bounce off you, roll away and disappear while a good story (or even a well-told bad joke) can haunt you forever? Such is the power of storytelling.

Canelazo Stories at La Guarida celebrates the power of storytelling.

Why? Because the story created language, not the other way around. About one hundred thousand years ago we started developing a language because we had a story to tell — as in “I am thirsty or there is a saber tooth chasing me, let’s all run.” We have been and will always be storytelling organisms. It’s in our DNA. It’s also in our science.

When an exciting story is told the brain releases dopamine into the system when it experiences an emotionally-charged event, making it easier to remember and with greater accuracy. When processing facts, two small areas of the brain are activated. A well-told story engages many more — including the motor cortex, sensory cortex, and frontal cortex. A story activates parts of the brain that allows listeners to turn it into their own experience through to a process brain scientists call neural coupling.

Speaking of neural coupling and other neural phenomenon, Canelazo is the traditional alcoholic welcome drink in the highlands of Ecuador. Traditionally flavored with cinnamon, naranjilla, and panela, its foundation is just enough aguardiente to start the belly-warming and the stories flowing.

Canelazo Stories is being held at La Guarida on Thursday, December 5 at 7 p.m. The event begins with the music of Roberto Avila and continues with stories told by local luminaries including Su Terry, Robert Bradley, Ali Alkhoja, Ray Huntley, Lisa Jaffe, and Andres Zambrano.

The evening is hosted by master adventure storyteller Dr. Jeff Salz.

Some of the tales to be spun feature experiences such as the war in Iraq told from the perspective of an Iraqi soldier, encountering real magic on the slopes of a sacred volcano, discovering the meaning of life at an outdoor café and why a journey to the other side of a planet is often necessary to access our own hearts.

This is the first in a series of  Canelazo Story events organized to celebrate “the power of story to unify diverse cultures around the world”. All presentations are being video recorded and translated into subtitles for non-language speakers. Thursday’s event — conducted in English — will be followed by a similar one in Spanish. On a third evening, six curated subtitled videos will be presented in an evening of facilitated intercultural discussion.

“We are excited to bring our diverse Cuencano community together encouraging each other to new levels of honesty and mutual empathy through the medium of story,” says Andres Zambrano of La Guarida and one of the organizers of the event.