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Ann Murdy | profile | all galleries >> 2012 Guelaguetza in Oaxaca, Mexico tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

2012 Guelaguetza in Oaxaca, Mexico

In July 2012 Oaxaca celebrated the 80th anniversary of the Guelaguetza. This Zapotec word "Guelaguetza" translates to gift or offering. Dancers from the eight regions of the state come into Oaxaca City to dance on the Mondays following July 16th, unless the first Monday falls on July 18th. This is the day that Benito Juárez the first Zapotec and indigenous president of Mexico died. He was from Oaxaca. The celebrations are then postponed a week out of respect to him. This cultural event is also known as Los Lunes del Cerro (Mondays on the Hill).

The main Guelaguetza takes place in the Guelaguetza amphitheater on Fortin Hill in the city of Oaxaca. There are two performances each Monday, one at nine in the morning and the second one at five in the afternoon. There are other Guelaguetzas that take place in various villages in the central valley. All the dances focus on the traditions within each region.

The eight regions that participate in the Guelaguetza are the Mixteca, Istmo, Cañada, Papaloapan, Sierra Norte, Valles Centrales, Sierra Sur and Costa. Dances within each respective area are performed on both Mondays. Dancers from each delegation wear their traditional traje (clothing) when they dance. This fabulous cultural event is extremely joyous, full of color, music and fun.

This celebration originated in colonial times. It is related to the Corpus Christi celebration at the Carmen Alto church. This indigenous fiesta was mixed in with Christians customs once the Spanish arrived in Mexico. The indigenous people continued to celebrate their customs which were dedicated to Centeotl, the goddess of corn. Offerings were made in her honor along with the dances being dedicated to her.

On June 30th and July 1st a contest was held for one young woman to be chosen to portray Centeotl during the Guelaguetza. Each contestant must be knowledgeable of the traditions of the town that she represents. Each of the eight delegations submit a contestant to represent them. The winner presides over the celebration.

There were also continuous activities at the Carmen Alto church during the Guelaguetza. The Virgin of Carmen was adorned with bouquets of flowers during this time. Worshippers came and paid their respects to her as well.

During the Guelaguetza there are various ferias (fairs) that take place throughout the immediate area. Some of the fairs are mezcal, cheese, tejate, mole, tapetes (rugs) and tamales. The mezcal fair is held in Llano Park. Throughout the fair there was live entertainment featuring folkloric dancing along with traditional and contemporary music. There were also booths set up in the park selling the traditional traje from each of the eight regions as well as folk art.

Each Saturday before the Guelaguetza there is a parade of the delegations. This is a wonderful event as you can see the dancers up close and enjoy their various dances. This event is full of joy, happiness and a rainbow of color. Shots of mezcal are served to one and all. A thunderous "viva" is heard by the dancers.

Once the Guelaguetza is performed dancers from all of the eight regions dance. After each delegation completes their dance the dancers throw products from their respective regions into the audience. Everyone in the crowd stands up waving their hands high in the air in hopes of catching a souvenir from the Guelaguetza.

This was the most colorful event I have ever photographed in my twenty-one years of traveling to Mexico. I will return!
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Las Tehuanas
Las Tehuanas
Flor de la Piña Dancer
Flor de la Piña Dancer
Dancer with big smile
Dancer with big smile
Adjusting Mask - Dancer from Santiago Juxtlahuaca
Adjusting Mask - Dancer from Santiago Juxtlahuaca
Girl from Tlacolula
Girl from Tlacolula
El Niño Mixteco
El Niño Mixteco
Little China Oaxaqueña
Little China Oaxaqueña
Girl from Santa Maria Tlahultotlepec
Girl from Santa Maria Tlahultotlepec
Dancer from Tuxtepec
Dancer from Tuxtepec
Portrait of China Oaxaqueña
Portrait of China Oaxaqueña
Little boy Moctezuma
Little boy Moctezuma
Tehuana wearing resplandor
Tehuana wearing resplandor
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