Religion – The heart and soul of Oaxaca – 2


What’s so ironic and tragic about religion in Latin America is that it’s the indigenous peoples who seem to be the most devout of Catholics. It’s a huge legacy of the Spanish (Spiritual) Conquest and hard to believe that the indigenous peoples throughout (what was then pre-Colombian) Mexico were pushed to abandon their ancient beliefs and rituals and convert to Christianity, with, at the time, little resistance. Fascinating, but not in the end surprising, and really rather sad. A Spanish reaction of disgust to some of the bloodier elements of the indigenous rituals clearly informed their feelings towards the entire culture. But, as the gift shops show, bloodiness was not exclusive to the early Mexicans.

The Zapotecs however, still cling to some of their ancient beliefs and rituals, such as the burial of the dead with valuables which they have been doing for thousands of years – as evidenced in Monte Alban.

Then of course there’s the traditional Guelaguetza festival. There is an increasing backlash from Zapotec purists who see their ancient traditions being more and more trashed for commercial purposes. Some are calling for a Populist Guelaguetza and a return to a more traditional, pre-Hispanic celebration. I have to say from talking to a couple of people who have been coming here for years that this year has been particularly noteworthy for the increase in commercialisation with never-before-seen ticketed events and (scarcely traditional) live pop music performances.

I guess, come and see it sooner rather than later as it’ll either get larger and less traditional or be wrested back to its authentic origins. Personally, we enjoyed the current chaotic mix!

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