The Guelaguetza Festival is a celebration of Oaxaca’s traditions and cultural diversity. The city is home to 16 different ethno-linguistic groups, spread throughout eight regions: Los Valles Centrales, La Sierra Juárez, La Cañada, Papaloapan, La Mixteca, La Costa, La Sierra Sur and Istmo de Tehuantepec. Representatives of each group dress in traditional costumes and present folk dance performances. As the word Guelaguetza means offering a gift in the Zapotec language, at the end of each performance, worshippers present the audience with many products and items that represent the region.
The festivity has been taking place since before Spanish people arrived in Mexico, as it is of crucial importance for history and culture, especially to the large indigenous population who lives in Oaxaca. Throughout the years, the ceremony has become more modern, as it incorporated some religious elements, such as honoring the corn goddess, Centéotl, who is believed to grant an abundant crop. Until this day, the groups gather together and elect one woman – who is not the most beautiful but is the one with the greatest knowledge about the community’s traditions – to play the role of Centéotl during the festival.
Since the colonial period, the festival is held on Cerro del Fortin mountain, usually on the last two Mondays of July. This makes the event as popular as the Los Lunes del Cerro (The Closing Mondays). This year, the 87th edition of the festival will be held on July 22nd and July 29th.