December 22 and 23, 2011, mark the inauguration of an exciting initiative sponsored by the state and municipal governments of Oaxaca as well as private enterprise. It’s aimed at enabling both tourists to Oaxaca, as well as its residents, to participate in a broad range of cultural experiences. According to Eric Monrroy, developer of the concept, “at Noches Mágicas de Guelaguetza I want people, in one single evening, to be able to take part in and learn as much as possible about Oaxaca; its gastronomic excellence, its music and dance, its color and pageantry, its diversity of crafts, and of course its signature chocolate, coffee and mezcal.”
Many visitors to Oaxaca book to spend only two or three days in the city, without realizing the richness of the region’s offerings until they arrive and it’s too late to change their travel plans. Some are in Oaxaca within the context of a longer vacation during which they do a whirlwind tour of several Mexican cities, while others visit the city for a day or two, en route to or returning home from a beach vacation in Huatulco or Puerto Escondido.
On each of these dates, beginning at 5 p.m., those interested in participating will have an opportunity to:
· Take part in a calenda (parade), complete with live band music, dancers in colorful regional dress, and fireworks, beginning at the Santa Domingo church and concluding at the evening’s main site, a spacious colonial restaurant known as Fuego y Sazón located in the quaint Jalatlaco downtown Oaxaca neighborhood
· Sample Oaxacan chocolate, the state’s renowned coffee, and of course different types of mezcal
· Speak with well known artisans displaying their quality crafts products such as naturally dyed tapetes (wool rugs), alebrijes (whimsical brilliantly painted carved wooden animals), hand-embroidered blouses and dresses, barro negro (black pottery), cotton table cloths and draperies, and hand-painted clay figures
· Treat the palate to a traditional Oaxacan dinner with just enough gastronomic flare to titillate the senses
· Listen to a Oaxacan singer whose repertoire includes songs in both Spanish and Zapoteco (the predominant indigenous language of the region)
· Marvel at a Guelaguetza, the celebration of Oaxaca’s 16 native cultures through dance, dress, song and humor
“The preliminary indication I’ve received from state officials is the hope that this event will be held three or four times a year,” Monrroy continues. “Our government recognizes that in only a few short hours we can expose visitors to the city to an extensive array of Oaxacan traditions; even Oaxacans come out to rejoice and enjoy, largely because of our sense of pride in who we are.”
Organizers of Noches Mágicas de Guelaguetza are enticing the public by providing a further incentive. Tickets are 500 or 600 pesos depending on seat location in the restaurant; but each ticket has a 200 peso voucher attached, redeemable at the event towards the purchase of all crafts, mezcal, chocolate or coffee, making the effective ticket price only 300 or 400 pesos. Tickets are available at tourism offices and kiosks, travel and tour agencies, Aerotucan offices and other select locations. For further details and ticket information email Monrroy at email@example.com, or call 0449511978767 or 0449511842420.
Alvin Starkman is a paid contributing writer for Mexico Today, a program for Marca País – Imagen de México. He and his wife operate Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast (http://www.casamachaya.com). Alvin has spent the past 20 years supporting tourism in Oaxaca, throughout which time he has gained an in-depth knowledge of the rich cultural traditions of Oaxaca and its central valleys.