We roll out of bed as morning breaks, gallos still crowing from the casa next door. Sun beams through thick clouds in usual fashion of an overcast Oaxacan morning. “Don’t think I’ve ever gotten up this early for a fiesta,” I mumble, as we stumble out the door at 7am sharp. Lunes de Cerro – Monday on the Hill – is not your typical way to begin the work week. Oaxaca’s annual celebration takes place each July, bringing together indigenous groups from each of its seven regions to share their unique culture with nationals and internationals alike. They each perform traditional song and dance while wearing their regional dress under the blazing summer sun.The Guelaguetza festival recognizes a commitment to sharing – cultures, food, dance, even labor, all done between individuals for the betterment of the community. It also marks the beginning of the rainy season, when ancient cultures performed sacrifices and ceremonies for the Gods to ask for good fortune and yield. Centeotl, Goddess of corn, is also praised and celebrated.
As we trudge up the sloping staircase that leads to the amphitheater, our eyes meet the thousands of eager faces already filling the free section; many yawn drowsily, having rushed to secure their spots at 3am. Fortunately, we’d forked over the dinero for a reserved section, but we’d still have to stake a claim on a central cement bleacher for good photo ops. A young couple gabs excitedly in German to my left, and another colorfully clad mango vendor speaks Zapateco, one of Mexico’s 62 indigenous languages, to her grandson. This morning we would have the honor to attend North America’s largest indigenous celebration, witnessing vibrant colors, endless music and wild dancing.
We perch comfortably on our free Coca-Cola butt cushions, hardly squinting under free sombreros, and drinking delicious free coffee (let the sharing begin)! At the end of each group’s performance, the crowd jumps and wails in hopes of catching an authentic goodie tossed to them; we are fortunate to nab a local delicacy as it flew like a saucer into our laps – a tortilla with fried grasshoppers for sprinkling! Yum!
Sing-a-longs and sore butts, tubas and fireworks (yes, even in the daytime), we spend six hours enjoying the best of what Oaxaca has to offer on Lunes de Cerro. The colorful movements, collaborative music and meandering crowds won’t soon be forgotten.