Every year as the calendar flicks over to July, the streets of Oaxaca start to buzz with Guelaguetza fever and the ever-colorful calles of the city fill with people, parades, the sky becoming home to an abundance of fire crackers. Celebrating its 85th year this year, the Guelaguetza brings 70 delegations from the 8 regions of Oaxaca together at the Guelaguetza Auditorium in a vibrant display of traditional dance, dress and music over two Mondays in July, known as Lunes del Cerro (this year Monday 17 and 24).
The festival isn’t confined to the walls of the Auditorium however (in fact, it doesn’t even have walls), but it spreads out across the city and surrounding villages, with local performances, calendas (parades), concerts, street food stalls and a number of different local cuisine and cultural fairs. It is a great time to experience so many of the things that are iconic to Oaxaca, from mezcal to mole and everything in between.
To help you decide, here is a selection of the best things on offer this year:
In early July (1, 7, 8, 14) you can catch the Convite parades, which act like little announcements of the Guelaguetza. They are teasers to get the city and all the visitors excited for what’s to come. They start from the Cruz de la Piedra at 7pm. If you are in the city on these dates you will likely hear the parade coming before you see it. They are hard to miss!
To catch the parades of all the different delegations that dance through the city’s central streets on the Saturdays prior to the Guelaguetza shows, head to the pedestrian street, Macedonia Alcalá (15 and 22 July at 6pm). One-by-one the different delegations flow down towards the Zócalo, in a colorful exhibition of the dances and traditional dress from across the state. Expect firecrackers, huge puppets and brass bands and prepare to catch the gifts thrown out into the crowd.
Food and Drink
Sample some of Oaxaca’s best delicacies at the Mezcal Fair (Llano Park from July 15-25), fill your stomach with a variety of different moles at the Mole Festival (Botanical Gardens on July 14) or enjoy a selection of iconic local dishes at the Semana de Antojos (Plaza de la Danza, 18-21 July) or later in the month try a tamal or two alongside the traditional drink Tejate at the Tamal and Tejate Fair (Plaza de la Danza, July 26 and 27).
There are a number of free concerts in the city during July, including, Lila Downs, Susana Harp, Mexicanto and Nortec Collective. All of the tickets for these events will become available on July 10 from various distribution points including Teatro Macedonio Alcalá and Museo de los Pintores Oaxaqueños.
There is also a theatrical display of the Legend of Donaji (a Mesoamerican legend of a princess who gave up her life for the love of her people) at the Guelaguetza Auditorium on July 16 and 23 at 8.30pm. It is a vibrant show that culminates in fireworks that light up the city skies.
As well as the huge variety of events in the city, there are a number of alternative Guelaguetzas in the towns of the central valleys on the Lunes del Cerro (17 and 24 July). These events will be held in Santa María El Tule, Villa de Etla, Zaachila, Cuilapam, and San Antonino Castillo Velasco – Ocotlán. Many of these regional towns will also hold exhibitions, fairs and markets of local products. Click here for more information.
BUYING TICKETS FOR THE GUELAGUETZA
Tickets for sections A and B of the Guelaguetza have already sold out but you can get tickets to sit in sections C and D by lining up on the day. Make sure you get there early, as the lines are always very long.
You can follow the official Guelaguetza page on Facebook here and don’t forget to check our calendar for the best events each day.
Susannah Rigg is an English writer based in Oaxaca and is the founder of the award-winning blog Mexico Retold.