Saturday, 27 March 2010

Gloria: Maestra de la Guelaguetza

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy -All Rights Reserved

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy -All Rights Reserved

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy -All Rights Reserved

During the Oaxaca Mini Photo~Expedition™ last week, we attended a Guelaguetza performance at one of the town's old hotels. I managed to get our group in the dancers' dressing room just before the performance, where we were introduced to Gloria, an experienced dancer who was dubbed "La Maestra" by the rest of the dancers.

Although heavy-set, Gloria had the flexibility, energy and liveliness of dancers half-her age, and she deafened us with her rhythmic whistling during the most frenetic parts of the dances. A real professional, with a wicked sense of humor.

La Guelaguetza is a perfomance of traditional dances from the seven regions of the state of Oaxaca. The performance is a re-creation of the original dance steps and music passed down through the generations. Dancers, and even musicians, wear costumes representative of their respective district, which are decorated with ribbons and sometimes bells.

The origin of the Guelaguetza dances dates fro pre-Columbian traditions, and the word "guelaguetza" is originally Zapotec Indian which means an offering or gift. In the true spirit of guelaguetza, the dancers at the end of their performance toss gifts, usually of fruits and vegetables, into the crowd. These offerings represent their region's specialty and include straw hats, flowers, mangoes and even pineapples.

This is what I described in my earlier POV post, and the fruits were eagerly awaited by some poor Zapotec children watching the children Guelaguetza.

Here's my gallery of La Guelaguetza photographs, made in 2007, which has additional details.