POUGHKEEPSIE – The Sixth Annual La Guelaguetza of Poughkeepsie was celebrated in Waryas Park on Sunday, August 3.
La Guelaguetza is an annual indigenous cultural event that is celebrated in the city of Oaxaca de Juarez, capital of the Mexican state of Oaxaca, as well as in surrounding towns, the two Mondays closest to July 16, which according to the Catholic calendar celebrates Our Lady of Mount Carmel. La Guelaguetza is also known by another name, Mondays of the Hill, since the heart of the festival takes place in the open-air amphitheater built into the Cerro del Fortin, a hill that overlooks central Oaxaca City.
The state of Oaxaca is home to 16 different ethnolinguistic groups and is incredibly diverse. For the Guelaguetza festival, members of these groups gather wearing their traditional clothing and perform folk dances that are particular to their region. At the end of the dancing they throw items to the crowd, products that come from the region they represent.
In the Poughkeepsie celebration, folkloric groups from the eight regions of the state participated (Costa Chica, Canada, Papaloapan, Mixteca, Sierra Sur, sierra Norte, Central Valleys and Isthmus Tehuantepec).
The word Guelaguetza comes from the Zapotec languages and is interpreted as the "reciprocal exchanges of gifts and services," and its meaning goes far beyond the festival.
In traditional Oaxacan villages when there is an occasion for celebration such as a baptism, wedding, or the feast day of the village patron saint, the people attending the party will bring items necessary for the celebration: food, alcoholic beverages, etc. Each person’s offering, or "guelaguetza" allows the party to take place and becomes part of a reciprocal exchange and is one of the ways social ties are reinforced and maintained through time.
Event organizers stated, "Although the celebration is now an important tourist attraction, it also retains deep cultural importance for the peoples of the state and is important for the continuing survival of these cultures. This is the spirit that we intend to convey in this Sixth Annual Guelaguetza of Poughkeepsie."
Folkloric groups that performed at the festival included: Ballet Folclorico Mexicano de Nueva York; Grupo Folclorico de Poughkeepsie; Grupo de danza Mount Alvernia; and Grupo Folklorico Danzantes Unidos de Newburgh.
There were also dozens of vendors with beautiful displays of art, jewelry and food.