If many Quebec travelers know the state of Oaxaca thanks to the city of Puerto Escondido, it is also worth discovering the capital. In July, the Guelaguetza Festival offers a golden opportunity to visit the city of Oaxaca de Juárez.
A cultural event with pre-Hispanic origins that has become an international festival. Throughout the month of July, the capital of the State of Oaxaca becomes the host of the Guelaguetza. A window on a living heritage, this is the biggest folk festival in the world. It honors the exchange between the cultures at the origin of the state of southern Mexico.
“La Guelaguetza is a name that comes from the Zapotec language and designates the exchange or solidarity between cultures,” says cultural organizer and choreographer Rolando Herrera. This carries historical meaning for Oaxaca. »
The latter evokes a tradition of support between cultures that existed before the arrival of European settlers and which constitutes the primary inspiration of these festivities. Appeared following the Mexican Revolution, these now take on a touristic dimension.
The Zapotec language alone is the mother tongue of more than 500,000 speakers. It is the main language of a culture descended from a millennial civilization, just like the Mixtec civilization. Moreover, there are many tourist circuits in the city to visit archaeological areas such as the pyramids of Mitla and Monte Alban.
The two main shows of this month of festivities and cultural activities attract tens of thousands of people each year, in the stadium that today overlooks the city of Oaxaca de Juárez.
“These festivities were already taking place on the mountain before the appearance of the stadium and initially constituted a moment of sharing between the different cultures of Oaxaca, says Mr. Herrera. It is their development that has led to the current boom in Guelaguetza. »
During these shows, we witness choreographies performed by delegations of performing artists who each wear the colors of one of the eight regions of the state of Oaxaca.
The same goes for the traditional calendas, parades where artists representing each region walk through the city with traditional costumes. “I believe it is up to us to develop a tourism culture of respect,” notes the choreographer. It is much more than a commercial festival that is found in the Guelaguetza. »
In fact, Mr. Herrera leads one of these delegations. “These parades have a Catholic origin, raises the one who has just completed a thesis at the UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) about the cultural heritage of Oaxaca. It also expresses over time a certain form of subversion and satire with regard to European colonialism. »
Beyond these unmissable events, the city offers a wide range of activities in July for all tastes. Music, dance or visual arts: one can discover a multitude of cultural activities during the Guelaguetza.
Internationally, Oaxaca stands out for contemporary art.
In particular, it is worth visiting museums such as the Institute of Graphic Art of Oaxaca or the Manuel Álvarez Bravo Photographic Center, which present exhibitions by avant-garde artists from the country and elsewhere. Moreover, there was recently an exhibition of the duo of Quebec photographers Miki Gingras and Patrick Dionne.
At the Convention Center, the Mezcal Fair invites you to discover this typical drink and, more generally, the gastronomy of Oaxaca. From Maguey, mezcal becomes an emblem of the region, and the event gives way to a multitude of productions from around the city.
As the capital is at the center of the regions that make up the state of Oaxaca, it also offers valuable access to them. The surroundings of the capital, the mountains of the Sierra Norte, the Mixtec zone (whose fauna and flora are strangely somewhat reminiscent of those of Quebec), the tropical region near the Atlantic, or even the dense forests of San José del Pacifico: these are just a few examples of fascinating and accessible places in Oaxaca.
Thanks to the inauguration of a brand new highway, it is notably possible to reach the Pacific coast and the famous city of Puerto Escondido in less than three hours. This is a nice alternative destination for travelers looking for a beautiful seaside resort. But with the capital of the state of Oaxaca, however, we discover an authentic connection to the cultures that are found at the origin of Mexico.