18 | ENE | 2020
Guelaguetza, a party born from an earthquake
young boy dances in stilts - Photo: Mario Arturo Martínez/EL UNIVERSAL

Guelaguetza, a party born from an earthquake

Christian Jiménez/Corresponsal
-A +A
The Guelaguetza is the result of Pre-Hispanic, Colonial and contemporary traditions; yet it's a celebration of indigenous culture and heritage

Leer en español

The Guelaguetza, one of Mexico's biggest celebration, has Pre-Hispanic origins and it was later modified by the Spanish. Today, the 8 regions and 16 ethnic groups of Oaxaca come together to give an offering to Centéotl, the corn goddess, and to celebrate their heritage.

A “racial encounter” took place in Oaxaca in 1932, later, it would be known around the world as the Guelaguetza, a Zapoteco word that means “to share”. This event was born from the need for unity Oaxaca's society after the 1931 earthquake that shook Oaxaca, said Fernando Rosales, the Folkloric Oaxaca Ballet Director and member of the Guelaguetza's Authenticity Committee.

Fernando Rosales says that after the 1931 earthquake, the constant aftershocks filled people with fear and uncertainty; people sold their homes and lands and moved away. To stop this phenomenon, members of the civil society, culture, and art sectors planned a homage to Oaxaca's culture, to reinforce their identity.

During the first years the community's dancers, schools, contemporary dance groups, artists, and athletes participated in the dances. In time, these activities nourished and complemented each other until the party “Lunes del Cerro” was born, which takes place in the Cerro del Fortín, a sacred hill, says Rosales.

During the first years, the Guelaguetza was mostly attended by local families, and the tradition going up the hill was created. The party lasted 12 hours, during that time the families could eat, buy and share in the midst of a free spectacle. Yet modernity, the popularity of the party and the chances of economic growth led to setting an access price.

In the Guelaguetza's first years, the Oaxaca's Folkloric Association organized the cultural activities, then the expert team formed the Authenticity Committee, with 10 experts who travel all over Oaxaca to meet with dance groups who want to participate in the Guelaguetza.

This year the dance groups were chosen from 93 municipalities, Rosales says that “maybe they will like, maybe they won't...but it's necessary that people take the opportunity to see cultural representations from other communities, which might not be emblematic but they have a lot to offer”.

“The evolution of the Guelaguetza is undeniable. Many dance groups don't attend anymore, but the community's active participation and the culture dissemination is undeniable”.
For Fernando Rosales, having a cultural show about Oaxaca's 8 regions, which are portrayed with pride and show the cultural reality of the indigenous people, is the real essence of the Guelaguetza.

Nowadays, the Guelaguetza is a renowned festival that brings all of Oaxaca together. It offers dance and music shows, dress contests, artwork sales, a mezcal festival, food tastings, and festivals; all these showcases the greatness and richness of the indigenous culture and heritage of Oaxaca



The Guelaguetza, Oaxaca's month-long party

The Guelaguetza is a party where the 8 regions of Oaxaca come together to celebrate its history and culture
The Guelaguetza, Oaxaca's month-long partyThe Guelaguetza, Oaxaca's month-long party

Mantente al día con el boletín de El Universal