Gearing up for Guelaguetza
- Published on Thursday, 12 May 2011 08:27
- By Oaxaca Times Staff
Few people like Mondays, but things are different when Los Lunes del Cerro come to Oaxaca.
With a rainbow of skirts and a mélange of sensory pleasures, the city will be holding its annual Guelaguetza – or “Mondays of the Hill” – July 25 and August 1.
Over the course of the week, indigenous peoples from all over the province will gather in the capital city to celebrate the goddess of corn with dancing, music and shared food.
And everyone’s encouraged to join the party.
When different cultures collide, clashes can occur.
But in the case of the Guelaguetza, a festival came forth.
The history of the Guelaguetza is a beautiful one, and shows how Oaxacan indigenous groups have kept traditions ongoing while assimilating to various cultural changes.
The festival adapted to Catholic traditions after the Spanish conquest, and the Christian origin was a festival related to Corpus Christ and celebrated at the Carmen Alto Church. Later on, local peoples joined this celebration, not to worship the Christian god but their own goddess of corn, Centéotl.
Every year, seven groups from each traditional region in the state – the Central Valleys, the Sierra Juarez, the Cañada, Tuxtepec, Mixtecas, the Coast and the Isthmus of Tehuantepec – perform the offertory dances to the goddess.
True to its adaptive nature, Guelaguetza has changed a lot since the colonial times, transforming according to the general spirit of the country.
Today, tradition has been commercialized and has turned the cultural celebration into a major tourist attraction.
The festival is no longer for everyone to participate in – now, dance troups rehearse for months before the event and spectators must buy a ticket to see the show.
Traditionally, Guelaguetza was always celebrated the first Monday after July 16, and then repeated the following Monday. That is, unless this day falls on the day of Benito Juárez’s death – like this year – in which case the festival is moved to the following Monday.
Today, tourists can watch year-round “guelaguetzas” at hotels and restaurants, which are basically traditional dance shows devoid of any deeper meaning.
Can you find the “real” Mexico in fancy costumes and pineapple dances, or in the exploitation of whatever has an indigenous flavour?
Is there still authenticy in Oaxaca’s Guelaguetza?
Love it or hate it, there’s no doubt about how much the Guelaguetza brings to the region.
Thousands pour in from all across the country to see local dancers, paying for tickets, lodging and food in town.
Throughout the course of the mid-month celebration, many important free parades, dances, concerts, and artistic happenings will take place.
- With files from Ron Fensom and Alicia Hersman