Fes­ti­val keeps Mex­i­can folk­lore alive

Viet Nam News - - Expat Corner -

OAX­ACA, Mex­ico — Aure­lio Mendez has played the wooden chir­imia flute, an in­stru­ment from pre-His­panic days, for 40 years at Mex­ico’s Gue­laguetza fes­ti­val, con­sid­ered Latin Amer­ica’s big­gest in­dige­nous folk­lore and dance event.

The mus­ta­chioed 54-year-old mu­si­cian is help­ing to keep lo­cal tra­di­tions alive in the an­nual fes­ti­val held in the south­ern state of Oax­aca, home to one of Mex­ico’s big­gest in­dige­nous pop­u­la­tions.

“You can’t lose ev­ery­thing,” Mendez said, proud that more and more del­e­ga­tions from in­dige­nous groups are join­ing the dance and cul­tural event ev­ery year.

Some 11,000 spec­ta­tors at­tended Mon­day’s mu­sic and dance per­for­mance in a cir­cu­lar am­phithe­atre on a hill of­fer­ing a pic­turesque view of the city of Oax­aca.

Fif­teen eth­nic com­mu­ni­ties take part in the an­nual fes­ti­val, which mixes Ro­man Catholic and in­dige­nous tra­di­tions. The event is also a chance to show off tra­di­tional crafts and foods.

The women dressed in the colour­ful Te­huana dresses that were made fa­mous by Mex­i­can painter Frida Kahlo.

Sa­man­tha Mon­tano, 18, was proud to wear the flow­ery at­tire from the isth­mus of Te­huan­te­pec.

“It’s a great feel­ing to be able to rep­re­sent my com­mu­nity, ” Mon­tano said.

The fes­ti­val is held the two Mondays fol­low­ing the July 16 feast of the Vir­gin del Car­men. Be­fore Catholi­cism was in­tro­duced, the fes­ti­val was held to hon­our Cen­teotl, the corn god­dess in the Zapotec lan­guage.

“This is an in­cred­i­ble fes­ti­val. The dances and clothes are beau­ti­ful. It’s a great ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Michael Gura, a 34-year-old US tourist from Ari­zona.

The cur­rent for­mat be­gan in 1932 but it di­vides peo­ple be­tween those who see it as a show­case of Oax­a­can tra­di­tions and oth­ers who de­ride it as a money-mak­ing mas­quer­ade.

Gue­laguetza is a Zapotec word mean­ing “of­fer­ings that are given, gifts that are re­ceived.” “It serves to show the world part of our cul­ture, our lan­guage and the views of our peo­ple,” said Felipe Miguel, an in­dige­nous ed­u­ca­tion teacher who par­tic­i­pates in the dance.

But Felipe said that many of his col­leagues were un­happy with his par­tic­i­pa­tion.

“They call me a traitor, but I tell them that cul­ture is very dif­fer­ent from pol­i­tics,” he said.

Some 500 teach­ers tried but failed to block ac­cess to the venue on Mon­day to protest the event as well as de­mand pay raises.

Oax­aca, 470km south of Mex­ico City, is a state rife with so­cial con­flict. —

— AFP/VNA Photo

Lively tra­di­tions: Re­gional dancers watch the per­for­mances dur­ing the Gue­laguetza cel­e­bra­tion on Mon­day in Oax­aca, Mex­ico.

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