The most important festival in Oaxaca is undoubtedly the annual celebration of La Guelaguetza. It is a holiday that revolves around dance and brings together eight regions of Oaxaca on the Cerro del Fortin.
Each year the Guelaguetza is celebrated on the two Mondays following July 16.
La Guelaguetza originated from the Mexica-Aztec conquest of Oaxaca, where the native Oaxacan worshiped the goddess of tender corn called Xilonen. Now a day the festival is dedicated to the goddess of corn called Centeotl.
Guelaguetza means to give or share, to gift or offer a service to someone. It comes from the Zapotec word Guendalezaa, which means offering, gift.
When a person marries, has a christening, a funeral or any kind of celebration, the people that are invited traditionally gift food, beverages, their work and even cash.
The hosts take note of exactly what and who gifted them in order to “re-pay” the favor in the future.
This wonderful exchange creates very strong bonds between families and the community.
Since the Guelaguetza takes place at the top of the Fortin hill in addition to the wonderful music and dances there is a spectacular view of Oaxaca and its surroundings, this is why it is also known as Lunes del Cerro, Mondays at the Hill.
The eight regions of Oaxaca that gather to celebrate La Guelaguetza are Costa, Cañada, Mixteca, Isthmus, Papaloapan Basin, the Central Valley, Sierra Norte and Sierra Sur.
Through their music, songs, their dances and traditional attire, each region presents to the spectator a fabulous testimony of their rich traditions and cultural heritage.
At the end of the presentations food, handicrafts, sombreros among other things are given away to the public.
The traditional dances performed by region are:
- Valley Region: Danza de la Pluma and Jarabe del Valle.
- Sierra Juárez: Sones Serranos and Jarabe de la Botella.
- Tuxtepec: Danza Flor de Piña.
- Huautla de Jiménez: Sones Mazatecos.
- Pinotepa: Las Chilenas, La Malagueña y el Pandero.
- Huajuapan de León: Jarabe Mixteco.
- Istmo de Tehuantepec: La Sandunga y La Tortuga.
- Ejutla: Jarabe Chenteño y El Palomo.
Each of these participating regions brings their own musical bands and dancers.
La Guelaguetza, is one of the most important traditional, cultural and artistic expressions of Oaxaca.
It is no wonder that it is able to bring together people from all over the world that want to experience one of the most fabulous reflections of its rich cultural heritage.