Ted’s Travels – Mexico’s best Festivals
If Mexicans are well known for something, it’s for their “fiestas” (parties). A culture rich in history and colour, Mexican festivals are as lively as they are diverse. The bountiful celebrations get entire families out into the streets singing dancing, laughing and spreading the infectious lust for life that this country emanates.
Throughout the years I’ve been lucky enough to attend some iconic Mexican festivals. Today, I’d like to share with you my 3 top events:
Guelaguetza: Oaxaca, July
The Guelaguetza is an annual indigenous cultural event that dates back long before the arrival of the Spanish in 1521. The festivities originate from Pre -Hispanic earth-based religious celebrations related to the worship of the corn God. Today, indigenous communities from the seven regions of the state gather in a large modern amphitheatre set up in a hill that overlooks Oaxaca City to present their native culture in the form of music, dance, song and food. The performance lasts all afternoon and the colour displayed is nothing short of spectacular. At the end of the show you’ll get a chance to taste Oaxaca’s typical foods; a state that is famous for its cultural heritage. You have to try the ‘black mole’!
Cervantino: Guanajuato, October
Once a relatively small festival dedicated to the works of Spanish novelist Miguel Cervantes, today the Cervantino Festival has become one of Latin America’s most iconic cultural events. The 2011 edition, for instance, brought together 2800 artists from 29 countries with disciplines ranging from folk music, open air theatre and art exhibits. The event is spread over 49 venues that include plazas and street theatres in one of my favourite colonial cities: Guanajuato (try pronouncing that after a couple of tequilas!).
Day of the Dead: Patzcuaro, November
Probably the most famous Mexican party, Day of the Dead commemorates departed relatives by ‘sharing an evening with them’. In yet another festivity that dates back to the Pre-Hispanic era, locals set up altars to call their dead relatives back from the underworld with candles, marigold flowers, incense, sugar skulls and bread. They then gather in cemeteries or houses to pray for the dead, sing songs and remember the departed. Michoacan is one of the states where the festivity is most preserved. In Patzcuaro island, the night is painted in yellow and orange hues by the countless flowers and candles that light both, the island and its surrounding lake – making the celebration a feast to the eye.
These festivals are all well worth attending. However, bear in mind that their popularity demands that travellers need to book early to guarantee a stress-free holiday and quality accommodation (unless you want a full-immersion camp-out-in-the-streets experience!).
Ted Dziadkiewicz is Director and Founder of Contours Travel, Australia’s longest running tour operator to Latin America. He has been more than 100 times to Latin America over the past 40 years and visited over 20 countries. If you want to know more visit www.contourstravel.com.au