GUELAGUETZA 2008

Tickets will again be available through Ticketmaster (http://www.ticketmaster.com.mx) at the official cost of 400 pesos. There will be two functions each of the two Mondays, as programmed last year.

The dates for 2008 are July 21 and 28 .

There will be many details to announce, soon after May 1.

Watch this space for up to date information.

A Zapotec word signifying offering or offertory, Guelaguetza was the term used to describe the ceremony and celebration held each year to propitiate the gods in return for sufficient rain and a bountiful harvest.

More than three thousand years ago the indigenous peoples in what is now the state of Oaxaca began to cultivate plants to augment hunting, fishing and gathering. The most important of these was corn which formed the basis of their diet and, with the addition of tomatos, beans, chiles and squash, evolved into a richly varied and delicious regional gastronomy. Thus the gods and goddesses involved with water and corn were vital among the hagiarchy and the tribute to them was a lively and colorful celebration of the music, dance and products of the people.

This offering of life's gifts took place midway through the rainy season, when it was essential that the rains continue moderately and without excess to bring forth the best crops. The feast of Xilonen, goddess of tender corn, falls in this period on what in the modern calendar is July 16 and is the signal to begin the two weeks of celebration.

When the Spanish arrived in Oaxaca in 1521 they converted all the indigenous people and imposed the Catholic religion. One of their tactics was to "convert" to Catholic ways the deeply rooted customs honoring pagan beliefs. For example, razing temples and building churches on the ruins, conserving the holiness of the place but identifying it with the new religion. In the case of the Guelaguetza, the idea was to change it to a celebration of the feast on July 16 of the Virgin of Carmen and that is why the Guelaguetza begins with calendas, monigotes (giant "puppets" manipulated by persons inside them) and other festivities at the church of Carmen Alto.

The Spanish also introduced new products and techniques which resulted in changes to lifestyles and traditional dress. Where before textiles were made from cotton, now you will see silk, wool and glass beads in the clothing of the delegations to the Guelaguetza.

Overlooking the present city of Oaxaca is the hill now known as the Cerro del Fortín from the location of Aztec garrisons there in the 15th century. This Cerro was a very popular place for outings and came to be the traditional place for celebrating the Lunes del Cerro (Mondays on the Hill) when the Guelaguetza began to focus on the celebrations held on the two Mondays following July 16.

In 1932 the city of Oaxaca celebrated the 400th anniversary of its designation by Carlos V as a royal city. As part of the festivities the Lunes del Cerro were organized into the forerunner of what we may call the "modern" Guelaguetza, with representation of the ethnic groups from all the seven regions of the state. Over the past 75 years it has become a highly publicized major spectacle and in 1974 an amphitheater seating about 11,000 was built to accommodate this most impressive expression of Oaxacan folklore.

Ancillary events have grown up around the basic two Mondays - some original indigenous traditions, especially in the villages, and some more modern innovations such as the contest to select the goddess Centeotl who presides over the festivities and the Bani Stui Gulal which is a dramatic presentation of how the Guelaguetza was celebrated in different epochs.

The "official" Guelaguetza is now organized and promoted by the state Tourism office (Secretaría de Turismo). The traditional formula to determine the dates has always been that it is held on the two Mondays following July 16 - unless July 18, the anniversary of the death of Benito Juárez, falls on Monday, in which case it is on the following two Mondays.

There are a number of official ancillary events, the most important of which are the contest to select the goddess Centeotl on the Sunday before the first Monday and the Bani Stui Gulal on the same Sunday night, plus the presentation of the Legend of Donaji on both Monday nights in the Guelaguetza Auditorium. The goddess Centeotl is chosen from among the candidates sent by each delegation, not for physical beauty but for her knowledge of her area's history, customs and traditions. The Legend of Donaji is the story of the last Zapotec princess, full of light, sound, fireworks and drama.

 

The Secretaría de Cultura and other groups are also organizing many collateral events.

FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THE MANY EVENTS ASSOCIATED WITH THE GUELAGUETZA 2008

check the Secretary of Tourism page at http://aoaxaca.com/guelaguetza

 

Dawns the Monday on the Hill and people are already walking up the hill to the auditorium, with music, fireworks and pageantry. Around 9:00 AM the delegations and spectators begin to arrive, the seats fill up and the excitement builds. The morning is perfect with bright sunshine and no rain is permitted. Promptly at 10:00 AM the goddess Centeotl and all the delegations are presented and parade around the stage. Centeotl then takes her seat with the governor of the state and invited dignitaries (such as the President of the Republic, King and Queen of Spain, high officials and personalities from all over the world, guests of the governor for this fabulous spectacle) and the first delegation is introduced and the celebration begins.

As on the first Monday, so on the second - pageantry, music and breathtaking beauty, enlivened by the scrabbling to catch one of the pineapples from the Papaloapan, a sombrero de palma from the Mixteca, mezcal from Ejutla or any of the varied products of their region thrown by members of each delegation into the audience.

It is impossible to adequately describe the heart-stirring beauty of this spectacle in its jewel setting - the music, the color, the vivacity of the participants infecting the audience which remains spellbound until the final delegation's presentation around 1:00 PM and wishes that the morning would never end. You may see the dances performed in other places and it is wonderful but nothing compares to being in this place at this time taking part in the Guelaguetza.

 

Details to be confirmed: REPEATING THE PRESENTATION EACH OF THE TWO MONDAYS WILL GIVE MANY MORE PEOPLE THE OPPORTUNITY TO ENJOY THIS MAGNIFICENT SPECTACLE. THE AFTERNOON PERFORMANCE EACH DAY WILL HAVE THE SAME DELEGATIONS, SAME PROGRAM, SAME ORDER. THE CALENDA AFTER THE TWO AFTERNOON PERFORMANCES WILL BE A WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE. THE PUBLIC IS INVITED TO JOIN THE PROCESSION AND WILL BE GIVEN FAROLAS (LANTERNS) TO CARRY DOWN THE HILL FROM THE AUDITORIUM TO THE CATHEDRAL WHERE THE EVENT WILL FINISH FOR THE NIGHT WITH SPECTACULAR FIREWORKS IN THE ATRIUM OF THE CATHEDRAL BY THE ALAMEDA.

Tickets will beon sale May 1 through Ticketmaster nationally and worldwide and later in theh city of Oaxaca at sites to be announced. You should be able to buy on line at http://ticketmaster.com.mx at the official cost of 400 pesos (or equivalent in other country currencies) if you pick up your tickets at a Ticketmaster center, or have them delivered to you by paying a delivery fee to Ticketmaster (varies from city to city). Tickets will be availableafter May 1.

There may be changes in details of ticket purchase. Watch here for updates.

 

 

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