The Guelaguetza of the Lunes del Cerro (Mondays on the Hill) are the contributions of music, dances, gastronomy and handicrafts that indigenous groups ant tribes from all over the State of Oaxaca make to the habitants and visitors of their State capital. At the end of their dancing, each group distributes its giveaways among the audience, always products and produce of their respective region. Guelaguetza is also a word from zapotec language and its meaning is the act of participating in a community celebration by contributing any of the necessary items, with the moral obligation by the person who receives the donation to return the same favor whenever the occasion arises.
The city of Oaxaca celebrates the "Fiestas de los lunes del cerro" (Festival of the Mondays on the Hill) during the whole month of July, with gastronomic tasting, arts and crafts exhibitions, sport activities and competitions, concerts and folklore presentations of the various indigenous communities.
The highlight of the months program is without any doubt the Guelaguetza, which is celebrated the next two Mondays following July 16th, and is organized by the state organizations and offices who promote and disseminate the regional culture and sport in Oaxaca.
These fiestas, as we know them, have origin in the colonial times and related to the so-called Fiesta of the Virgin of the Carmen Alto Church, built by the Carmelita Monks in the folds of the Fortin hill, formerly home to the temple of the goddess Centéotl, a mexica goddess of the green corn, to whom the tribes honored by making important offerings.
The laic-religious Fiesta was celebrated on the Monday following July 16th, and was repeated eight days later with the so-called "Octava" (eight). Soon the villages and tribes of the communities surrounding Guaxaca (Oaxaca) started to participate enthusiastically in the festivities, and today important groups from all over the State travel to the capital. This is how the festival of music, dances and song called "Guelaguetza" became the main event of the Fiestas de los lunes del cerro.
Recently, other folkloric events have been added to the festival, such as the Parade of the Delegations, organized like a traditional Calenda (procession) and presented on the Saturdays preceding the Lunes del cerro.
This Calenda is lead by the "marmota", a large balloon shaped and cloth covered lamp, the "gigantes", giant cloth dolls, and the "chinas oaxaqueñas", women from the citys markets carrying flower baskets on their heads, accompanied by marching bands and artificial fireworks, and followed by all the delegations, each one preceded by the band of its region.
That same Friday and Saturday in the morning, somewhere in the Historic Center, the representative of the "Goddess Centéotl" is choosen. Candidates are young woman from each delegation or ethnic group. In this competition it is not the most beautiful girl, or the one with most elaborated and expressive costume, who is chosen to represent the goddess, but the young lady most knowledgeable about the traditions and customs of her tribe or region.
On Sunday night, at the Guelaguetza Auditorium, "Donají The Legend" is presented. The legend talks of the life, love and death of the zapotec princess, during the times when the mixtecs and zapotecs were arch enemies; in order to achieve peace between the two cultures, the princes is given to the mixtecs in Monte Albán, but one night when the mixtecs are not alert, Donají was able to advise her father Cosijoeza who attacked with his warriors and caused widespread death. After the confusion of the moment, the mixtec warriors were able to recapture Donají and decapitated her.
Her head, which appeared later without a trace of putrefaction, is today part of Oaxaca Citys coat of arms.
For the "Octava" (second Lunes del cerro), the Calenda of the Delagations, the "Bani Stui Gulal", "DonajíThe Legend" and the Guelaguetza are repeated.
At the end of the evening Guelaguetza, the festivity closes with extraordinary fireworks.
The festivities of the Lunes del cerro are living legend, waiting for you.