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GUELAGUETZA

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Oaxaca Times library"align="rightWomen with flowers of all colors dancing in gorgeous dresses, men in bright straw hats parading through the streets, the aroma of food and live music filling the air, explosions of firecrackers, gifts, and treats, hundreds of native tongues…all heading towards the stadium. On July 19, Oaxaca will host the grandest, two-week festival that celebrates all indigenous cultures, traditions, and history.

The history of the Guelaguetza is a beautiful one, showing how the indigenous groups of the state of Oaxaca have kept traditions ongoing while assimilating to new and various cultural changes. Every year, seven groups from the Central Valleys, the Sierra Juarez, the Cañada, Tuxtepec, Mixtecs, the Coast, and the Isthmus of Tuheantepec perform the offertory dances.

The celebration began more than three thousand years ago, in conjunction with the beginning of crop cultivation. Indigenous people believed worshipping the gods responsible for different staples like water, corn or fruits helped promote better crops. They held large celebrations with specific dances and music to pray to them for a continued good harvest throughout the remainder of the season. They also thanked them for bringing portions of the harvested crops—Guelaguetza is the Zapotec word for ‘offering’ or ‘gift.’ Since they mostly cultivated corn, Guelaguetza was started during the celebration of Xilonen, the goddess of corn, in mid-July.

Upon arrival in Oaxaca in the early 16th century, the Spaniards set forth converting the indigenous people to the Catholic faith. An easier way to impose the change was to adapt the traditional celebrations to Catholic holidays. Hence, the Spaniards transformed the Guelaguetza into the Feast of the Virgin of Carmen, from the Church of Carmen Alto in Spain. Nowadays, Guelaguetza festival typically occurs on the third Monday in July, unless this occurs on the day of Benito Juárez’s death, in which case the festival is moved to the following Monday.

However, Guelaguetza actually begins the day before, with the selection of the not-so-Catholic Goddess of Centeotl. The election of the Goddess derives from the native traditions and remains to this day a major celebration. In every Guelaguetza, the honorary Goddess of Centoetl is selected from young females representing their indigenous groups. The selection is based exclusively upon the comprehension that each girl has her own people and traditions. The most knowledgeable one is awarded the honorary and respected title of Goddess of Centoetl.

During the ceremonies, the Goddess sits with the various prestigious guests, such as the governor of the state and sometimes the King and Queen of Spain, and watch over the festivities.

On both Mondays of the Guelaguetza, each of the tribe presents beautiful and formal processions of dances in the Guelaguetza Auditorium. These series of presentations signify thanks to the various gods of harvest and hope that a good season will continue. At the end of the dances, candy and other specialties are thrown into the crowd.

The stadium can hold more than 11,000 people and was specially constructed for the event in 1974, on the Cerro del Fortin, the hilltop on the west side of town. This space was originally the Aztec quarters in the 15th century and later on became the location for the celebration of the Lunes de Cerro or Mondays on the Hill.

Throughout the course of the mid-month celebration, many important free parades, dances, concerts, and artistic happenings will take place outside the stadium. For instance, there will be a showing of photographs at the Oaxaca’s cultural center, a guitar concert directed by Jose Mañuel Vidal, and a day of workshops where participants can use clay and other local crafts. Every night and day in Oaxaca will have an event for everyone to enjoy and participate inFrom the Zócalo, walk west on Calle Independencia and turn right on Calle Crespo. Follow Calle Crespo North until you reach Escaleras del Fortin. Follow the Escaleras to the top, crossing over the highway, until you reach the Guelaguetza Auditorium.

You can purchase your tickets at Ticket Master

Other parades, performances, and concerts are located around the city in various locations.

For more information on these events, please check the official website hosted by the Office of Tourism.

http://www.oaxaca.travel/guelaguetza08/or by calling 516 0123.

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