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 La Guelaguetza - Oaxaca's famous regional festival

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OAXACA IS GUELAGUETZA!
Guelaguetz, Baile
Bailables
Guelaguetza festival will be held on Monday, July 17th and Monday, July 24th, 2017.

The famous Guelaguetza festival is held each July in the Mexican state of Oaxaca (WA-HA-KA). Also known locally as "Los Lunes del Cerro" (Mondays on the Hill), this celebration takes place on two consecutive mondays. A beautiful cultural event dating back hundreds of years, this festival attracts visitors from around the world.

Participants from the seven different regions of the state gather in the capital city, also named Oaxaca, to dance, sing and play music. This cultural exchange is a visually stunning exhibit of color and movement. The dancers and musicians wear clothing representative of their district. Their costumes, decorated with ribbons and bells, add a wonderful presence to the festivities.

In addition to folkloric dance and song, the cultural exchange extends to culinary delights. Regional food specialties are featured, enchanting the taste buds with exquisite flavors. Oaxaca is internationally known amongst food connoisseurs as having exceptionally delicious cuisine. Tantalizing Oaxacan dishes typically feature exotic mole (MO-LAY) sauces accompanied by fragrant aromas.

The roots of the Guelaguetza festival call upon pre-Columbian traditions that have existed for millennium. Indeed, the word "guelaguetza" hails from the Zapotec Indian language and means an offering or gift. Included in the translation is the concept of an exchange, or an act of reciprocity. Guelaguetza was woven into the area's indigenous cultures as a form of social etiquette and expectation. Its practice benefited everyone involved.

Guelagueza, Bailadora
Bailadora
Since time immemorial, the area's indigenous peoples honored the goddess of maize (corn) through ceremony and ritual. Each year at the height of the rainy season (mid-July), the people would gather and pay homage to Centeotl, the corn goddess. These supplications were performed to assure a bountiful forthcoming harvest.

During the Spanish colonial period, Catholic missionaries sought to dissuade such pagan rituals. As a result, the church promoted the feast of the Virgin of Carmen, celebrated on the 16th of July, as a countermeasure to the corn goddess festivities. A hybridization of cultures occurred and the two distinct traditions became interwoven over time, finally evolving into the modern La Guelaguetza festival we know today.

In 1932, the city of Oaxaca held a grand celebration, to commemorate its 400th year anniversary. It was designated a royal city by a decree of King Charles V in the year 1532. This extraordinary event brought together participants from the seven regions of Oaxaca to meet in the capital and share their unique gifts with one another.

An annual event, the Guelaguetza has become extremely popular with both nationals and foreigners alike. The dramatic displays of dance, music and song attracts thousands of visitors each year. Exquisite textiles, ceramics and other native arts are also highlighted with each region represented.

The dates of the festival fluctuate each year, according to the calendar and the following calculations. Typically, the first date falls on the monday after July 16th. However, an exception exists to this formula. Should the monday in question fall on the anniversary of President Benito Juárez' death (July 18th), the start date is traditionally delayed by one week. Due to the dates changing each year, it is best to check with your travel agent when making your reservations.

Guelaquetza, Danza Pi�a
Danza Piña
Official ceremonies commence at dawn on the festival's first day. These celebrations take place on a hill that has a wide panorama of the city. This major landmark, "Cerro del Fortin" (Fortin Hill) has been the site of many events throughout Mexico's history. It is an ideal spot for the festival and boasts a wonderful open-air amphitheater where the main performances take place.

In the true spirit of Guelaguetza, the dancers at the end of their performance toss gifts into the crowd. These offerings represent their region's specialty and might include straw hats, flowers and even pineapples! In addition to the two Monday celebrations, adjacent festivals and parades occur on the weekend preceding the main event and throughout the week.

Women wearing traditional dress accompanied by baskets of flowers provide a lovely element to these processions. Large walking puppets delight the many children who are in attendance. Fireworks complete the festive atmosphere which is charged with electricity. There is a competition to elect a contemporary Goddess Centeotl and reenactments of the life of Princess Donaji, the last Zapotecan princess. The Guelaguetza Festival truly is a wondrous cultural event enjoyed by everyone in attendance.



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