Monday, July 17, 2006

Oaxaca, Mexico: Guelaguetza Festival postponed indefinitely

Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz announced during a radio interview this morning that the annual Guelaguetza Festival has been "suspended" but would be re-initiated once the labor problems with the teachers' union is settled. Ruiz Ortiz said that he wanted to avoid confrontations with the teachers.

So, for the first time in its history, the world renouned festival is, for all intents and purposes, canceled this year. There is another report that the teachers' union and some other groups will attempt to host their own Guelaguetza festival at a yet-to-be-named location and it will involve only indigenous peoples and not the "rich" politicians, business and hotel owners.

Let me explain what this festival is and how it works. The word "guelaguetza" is a Zapotec word meaning, roughly, "all for one". The festival draws visitors from all over Mexico and the world. The indigenous peoples from throughout the state come here annually bringing their traditional dress, foods, products, artwork and crafts. There are different events throughout the city and in some close-by towns, like El Tule and Zaachila. The single biggest event is the dance competition which lasts for almost two weeks.

The sales of their products, from traditional clothing to fine art and everything that you can imagine in between are major sources of income for these people. Having a "private" festival for only indigenous peoples will serve little purpose. These indigenous people don't buy and sell amongst themselves. Many if not most of the participants rely on sales of their products, arts and crafts to visitors and tourists to at least pay for their journey and stay here. They also count on this money to pay the upcoming school expenses for their children.

There is an amphitheater which was built expressly for this festival at the top of a mountain, called Cerro Fortín, at the edge of the city. This mountain held some religious significance to the Zapotecs and the Mixtecs who supplanted them just before the arrival of the Spanish in the early 1500's. In spite of the Mixtec takeover of Zapotec territory, peoples here consider themselves Zapotec, not Miztec. Therefore, no small number of the events and ceremonies during the festival hold some pre-Columbian religious significance but only if they take place on or at the base of the mountain. Holding a "festival" at, say, El Tule, as has been rumored, would be akin to moving the Memorial Day service at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to the campus of Georgetown University because Cindy Sheehan threatened to stand before and block the tomb. No small amount of significance would be lost.

What the teachers and other interested anarchists have done (and I'm not saying that the heavy-handed state and local governments are innocent) is deny the indigenous peoples, whom the anarchists supposedly represent, their biggest annual event. In typical leftist-socialist mode, other people's sacrifices are necessary for the good of the cause. Vandalism, theft and assault are acceptabe if they are in the name of the cause. In an effort to punish the "rich", which means anyone not sympathetic to their cause, the anarchists damage a big part of the indigenous peoples' heritage.

Prior to the governor's announcement, some of the initial traditional ceremonies and events had occurred and some had not. The queen was chosen, but this had to be done in a secret location to avoid its interruption by the striking teachers. The opening parade was canceled because a large group of teachers had stationed itself at the parade's jumping off point and vowed that they would stop it. They did.

The teachers entered the amphitheater for a third time yesterday and finished burning the huge wooden dance floor. The amphitheater is pretty well trashed. The bathrooms have been stripped, paint has been splashed all over the walls, aisles and seats, signs torn down or defaced and dance floor burned - 3 times. The state government is incapable of stopping it and the federal government seemingly does not wish to interfere - probably because of the presidential election brouhaha. Enough on its plate already and all of that. In addition, Ruiz Ortiz is an old line, hard line PRIista while the federal government is, of course, PANista.

What the anarchists ignore, as is typical with the socialist left, is that a person with a million pesos in the bank can afford to lose two weeks of income. A person with 10 pesos in his pocket cannot.

As before: STAY AWAY

Please visit the Pale Horse Galleries online store
for art, gifts and collectables -- all hand made
by Mexican indigenous artists.


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