The periods during Oaxacan Festivals are the most exciting times of the year in Oaxaca. Most of these Oaxaca festivals have deep religious significance. Some of the Oaxaca festivals will last all night. Some will march from church to church and complete certain rituals until they have visited all the main churches in the city of Oaxaca. Others march around the zocalo wearing costumes and fancy dress.
Perhaps the largest and most exciting Oaxacan festival is the Guelaguetza . This festival is composed of folk dancing and live music. Several Indian tribes perform their native dances and conduct re-enactment’s of their history. The main Guelaguetza is held on the first two Mondays after July 16th. Thousands of people flood the city from Oaxaca and nearby villages. This festival is held in a large amphitheater on the side of a hill north west of town. My guide told me that the amphitheater was built solely for the Guelaguetza and lies dormant for the rest of the year.
During December the Quinta Real Hotel & Resort holds their own Guelaguetza in the large stone building that adjoins the main hotel. This includes an all you can eat dinner buffet and about 10 dances from different tribes. My favorite was the pineapple dance where the dancers dance with pineapples. At the end of certain dances the dancers threw crafts and selected goodies into the audience.
On the 16th of July the Virgen del Carmen is held. This is held around the Temple del Carmen on Garcia Vigil. This area turns into a large fairground for at least a week. At night you can witness fireworks.
Dios de los Muertos is held in late October. It is a day to honor those who have died and during the parades an element of “fun” is often displayed. For example masks worn by the people are often in the shape of grinning skulls or decorated in a humorous way. This site is a good source of links to other Day of the Dead websites: www.mexonline.com/muertos.htm
The Virgen del la Soledad is held on December 18, and on December 16 and 17 processions and traditional dances are held in the zocalo. This is a good place to get lost in the middle of the crowd and excitement. I can’t stress enough how important it is to actually join the crowd and become a part of their excitement instead of sitting on the outside and just watching. I was never claustrophobic when I was surrounded by all the people. I could always slowly make my way to the edge of the crowd if I wanted. During these processions people are both drinking and offering drinks to you as well as singing and dancing.
Night of the Radishes is held in the zocalo on the 23rd of December. This festival involves carving various figures out of radishes and displaying them in the zocalo. This festival is fun because it also includes breaking pots. Vendors sell bunuelos, a type of pancake, in a small orange pot. After eating this you turn around backwards to a large wall against a church, and make a wish, and then fling the pot over your head as hard as you can. Soon you can hear the sound of this breaking pot. The ground is literally covered with shards and fragments of orange broken pottery. This is an interesting festival indeed!