By Daniel Jimenez for South Kern Sol
BAKERSFIELD — Every year, twelve cities across California play host to “La Guelaguetza,” a celebration that honors the cultures and traditions of indigenous communities hailing from the Mexican state of Oaxaca. This year, Bakersfield will close out the statewide event, making this city’s Guelaguetza the season’s largest.
“It’s very special to me because it brings back great memories from my town, especially when they start playing traditional music,” said Edgar Gonzalez, a Bakersfield resident who was born in Silacayoapan, Oaxaca. “It also makes me feel united with my people.”
The Guelaguetza traces its history to pre-colonial times when the people paid tribute to Centeotl, the corn goddess. When the Spanish conquistadors came to America, they tried to coopt the pagan celebration by imposing the Catholic festival of the Virgen Del Carmen in its place. Today, the Guelaguetza celebrations in Mexico – communities from the seven regions of the state of Oaxaca gather in the state capital to sing, dance, eat traditional food, and celebrate — are a combination of both; pre and post-colonial traditions merge to form one. La Guelaguetza, which means “exchange” in the Zapoteco language, is also an opportunity for people to ofrendar (trade goods) with each other.
According to Hector Hernandez, one of the organizers of the event, Bakersfield’s Guelaguetza is designed to parallel the original Guelaguetza in Oaxaca.
“It’s a replica. Our community comes together to celebrate our culture and the indigenous custom days,” said Hernandez.
The Guelaguetza will take place on Sunday, October 14, at California State University Bakersfield. Organizers are inviting everyone to join in the activities, and learn about the Oaxacan culture.
“I highly recommend La Guelaguetza to everyone, even if you are not from Oaxaca; you can get the chance to appreciate and learn about the Oaxacan culture,” said Gonzalez.