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Guelaguetza: A Traditional Oaxacan Cultural Event


Guelaguetza is a holiday in Oaxaca that is celebrated in the state’s eight different regions: Costa, Cañada, Mixteca, Isthmus, Papaloapan Basin, the Central Valley, Sierra Norte, and Sierra Sur. The holiday worships the corn goddess Centeotl, and revolves around the exchange of gifts, dances, and cultural activities And of course, there’s always lots of Mezcal.

Oaxacans Know How to Party

Guelaguetza takes place on Fortin Hill (Cerro del Fortin) in an auditorium built in the 1970s, specifically for the holiday . It has seating for about 11,000 people and gives a great view of the entire city below. Some of the events that take place for this holiday include concerts, conferences, exhibits, dances, gift-swapping, and even a Mezcal fair. This information alone should tell you it’s always a celebration to remember!


Guelaguetza is also called Los Lunes del Cerro (Mondays on the Hill) . It occurs on the two Mondays that follow July 16th (except for when it falls on July 18th, which is when the community commemorates President Benito Juarez). When that occurs, Guelaguetza is held on the last Monday of July and the first Monday of August. The holiday began in 1932 and centers around the cultural traditions of both Oaxaca and the Catholic feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

It’s All About Community

A large part of the reason we appreciate this holiday so much is because it’s centered around Oaxacan communities. It’s about enjoying those around you, and about soaking in the traditions that each region brings to the table. Each region brings its unique flair of local artists, bands, and dances. It’s a day of celebrating our differences and enjoying them together.

A Flair for (Traditional) Fashion

Guelaguetza is the perfect time to see traditional Oaxacan attire and fashion. You will find hand-embroidered blouses, dresses, textiles, handicrafts, weaving, rugs, and more. It’s full of vibrant colors, like hot pinks, bright blues, and sunny yellows. Traditional dance dresses that represent each region steal the show—it’s a vibrant celebration indeed.

Dancing the Day Away

Traditional dances are performed by each region at Guelaguetza, with many of the regions even showcasing two. For example, the Istmo de Tehuantepec region dances both La Zandunga and La Tortuga. These dances have unique outfits and music, so you can expect swirling dresses in bold colors and dancers moving in stunning formations.

Better Than Christmas

It’s hard to imagine anything better than Christmas, right? But the term Guelaguetza comes from the Zapotec term “guendalezaa,” which means “offering, present, fulfillment.” Gifts are voluntarily repaid from prior milestone events, such as weddings or baptisms. This is the way of ‘paying it forward.’ Like an even better version of buying the next round.

Some of the great gifts seen include colorful sombreros or intricate handicrafts. That said, one of the best gifts someone could receive is (obviously) our Mezcal Rosaluna. Our Mezcal makes for a great gift for any and all occasions. And don’t forget to buy an extra bottle for yourself, too. You deserve it.

Dinner And a Show!

As with any important holiday, food serves an important purpose. Street vendors serve traditional Oaxacan foods, such as chicken negro, rice and beans, pork soup, and pear ice cream. Since the holiday is celebrating the corn goddess, there are always many dishes including corn—tortillas, empanadas, and tamales are some of our personal favorites.

At the end of each region's dance, they throw a small fruit into the audience. Sombreros are also sometimes thrown as a way to represent the traditions of this great holiday. Just make sure to watch out for any flying coconuts...

Making New Traditions

Each year the regions decide what to bring to the table, to accurately represent and symbolize their communities. While the dances may stay the same, you can expect to see new choreography and new fashions each year. While you can anticipate more traditional celebrations, the holiday itself is meant to appreciate the region's culture from the beginning of the holiday to the current day. There’s always room for improvement.

Start a new tradition of your own by bringing Guelaguetza to your home. Make it one of your own family or friend traditions, and celebrate what makes each one of you unique. Share dances from your culture, and make each other food that reminds you of home. You could also spice it up and make some foods with Mezcal or create some taste-bud-popping cocktails. Honestly, you definitely should.

The Queen of Guelaguetza

The Sunday before Guelaguetza, one young woman is chosen to represent the corn goddess, Centeotl. She is chosen based on her knowledge and how well she represents her region. This tradition centers around how Mesoamerica demanded a sacrifice of a teenage slave who was beheaded (eek), all in representation of the mature corn head separating from the actual plant. Thankfully, this particular tradition lost its charm a while ago.

Protecting Indigenous Traditions

Guelaguetza is an important holiday that celebrates traditions of varying cultures. The state of Oaxaca alone has sixteen different ethnolinguistic groups and primarily consists of indigenous peoples. Needless to say, there is a lot of culture to celebrate. Some of the traditions and history celebrated include productions of historical events, programs created by local colleges, parades, exhibits, and items handcrafted by residents.

How You Can Join the Fun This Year?

This year Guelaguetza takes place from July 22-27, 2021. Currently, it is not canceled due to COVID, but last year, it was held virtually. The celebration has not yet been officially canceled by The Secretary of Tourism and Government of the State of Oaxaca. Fingers crossed.

While we know not everyone has the luxury of traveling to our beautiful area for this great festival, we encourage you to take the traditions home and celebrate with your local community. Look at some of our fun gifts and consider a reusable water bottle or bottle of Mezcal Rosaluna to get your own party started! Grab some Mezcal and some friends, and you’ve got a party. We’ll certainly cheers to that!


Guelaguetza Festival Event | Go Where When

How to Celebrate the Guelaguetza Festival in Oaxaca | Trip Savvy

Guelaguetza | Planeta.com

La Guelaguetza Celebration | Inside Mexico

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