Oaxaca has to be one of the most intoxicating places we’ve ever been. Alive with intense vivid colours and vibrant live music. I guess it helps to be here during Guelaguetza, or Los Lunes del Cerro (Mondays on the Hill), an annual indigenous cultural festival held on the last two Mondays of July and bringing together all seven regions of Oaxaca State.
The participants have already been assembling for days and there are dozens of walking bands with highly polished brass instruments, local girls in brightly coloured swirling dresses balancing huge floral arrangements on their heads and young men and boys rhythmically manoeuvring enormous papier mache figures on tall white poles, all parading up and down the streets as if to announce their arrival in Oaxaca.
What makes this so wonderful is that each group represents a particular community that’s competing or participating in Guelaguetza, so they’re accompanied by, followed along by, their proud fellow villagers. Kind of like the Pied Piper of Oaxaca, but much louder and brighter!
The town isn’t awash with overseas tourists as you might imagine, but with throngs of Mexicans, mostly locals it seems, dressed up in their finery, and all contributing something to the festival, be it native food (including of course, the obligatory fried grasshoppers, worms and grubs), a stunning array of crafts, textiles, rugs (we want so badly, but can’t because of our self-imposed baggage allowance)… you name it, it’s here.
The walking bands and parades go well into the night and seem to be on a constant circuit of downtown, accompanied, of course, by fire cracker bangs and roars from the crowd. So, this goes on for two more weeks. It could be either exhausting or… we might have to join in. Watch this space.
Highlight of the day – a troupe of medieval lute and guitar players in heavy black period costume parking themselves at an adjacent table, ordering jugs of beer and then singing drinking songs whilst playing – joyously and with enviable camaraderie (Anthony added that bit).