Oaxaca City is said to have a festival every week. As one of Mexico’s folk art centers and with over 15 distinct language and cultural groups, the festivals are all extremely unique and magical.
The Day of the Dead is celebrated throughout Mexico and is especially vibrant in Oaxaca. The celebration of All Saints Day takes place on November 1st and 2nd and is a time when the deceased can return to earth and celebrate with the living the earthly delights of music, food and drink. Prior to the actual days, the markets are colorful and busy. Altars are set up in reverence, and grave sites are cleaned up and restored in remembrance of loved ones now gone. Candles burn endlessly and vendors sell all kinds popular local dishes and homemade beverages. Bands of musicians can be heard playing at various grave sites.
First held in 2010, the Oaxaca Film Festival gets bigger and better every year and presents a weeklong program of independent films from Mexico and around the world, usually in the first half of October.
The Guelaguetza is a brilliant feast of Oaxacan folk dance and a celebration of Mexican culture, staged on the first two Mondays after July 16, in the large, semi-open-air Auditorio Guelaguetza on Cerro del Fortin. Costumed dancers perform a succession of routines, tossing offerings to the crowd as they finish. Excitement climaxes with the incredibly colorful pineapple dance by women of the Papaloapan region, and the stately feather dance, which symbolically re-enacts the Spanish conquest.
The international organ and early music festival honors Oaxacan culture through its historic pipe organs. The Institute of Historic Oaxacan Organs tell you just how important these baroque instruments are in Oaxaca’s culture. The event honors colonial art in Oaxaca’s churches, concerts conducted with six restored organs, an exhibit of manuscripts related to the historic organs and a guided tour of the Monte Alban ruins, which is recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site. But the backbone of the festival, as always, is it’s guided tours of colonial churches in surrounding villages.