Music and festivities of Oaxaca fill Cadman Plaza Park

guelaguetza festival downtown brooklyn

La Guelaguetza Festival New York brought the music and traditions of the Oaxaca region of Mexico to Downtown Brooklyn on Sunday. Photo by Mary Frost.

The festive music, gala outfits and traditional dances of the Oaxaca region of Mexico filled Cadman Plaza Park in Downtown Brooklyn on Sunday, at the second annual La Guelaguetza Festival New York sponsored by the Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Nueva York (BFMNY).

Dancers with swirling silk skirts and and intruiging veils — carrying towering puppets, banners and baskets of flowers — performed Oaxacan dances from across the region. Some featured elaborate processions; others were simple depictions of everyday life, such as a man’s efforts to woo a demure young lady. His efforts needed no translation when he moved his arms as if he was swimming towards the woman against a strong current.

dance group guelaguetza festival brooklyn

Dancers trained for several months before the event. Photo by Mary Frost.

A large and appreciative crowd, including City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca (Red Hook), spread out beach chairs and blankets and applauded the performances, and the cheerful music drew in spectators from the nearby Brooklyn Heights’ neighborhood.

The Guelaguetza, from a Zapotec word meaning sharing, is an annual event in Oaxaca, in southeastern Mexico. The celebration, always held during the last two weeks of July, focuses on traditional dances and includes parades with marching bands, local food, and exhibitions of handmade textiles and pottery. Also known as Lunes del Cerro (Mondays of the Hill), Guelaguetza is called one of Mexico’s premier celebrations of dance and music.

dancers guelaguetza festival brooklyn

Dancers at La Guelaguetza Festival New York in Brooklyn. Photo by Mary Frost.

According to the website go-oaxaca.com, the festivities originated in colonial times and are related to the festivity of Corpus Christi. Indians who lived in the nearby villages joined the celebration, incorporating their own traditions in which they workshipped Centeotl (goddess of tender corn or elote).

carlos menchaca guelaguetza fest family

City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, center rear. Photo by Mary Frost.

In Mexico, at the end of each dance, each delegation traditionally throws small fruit, little gifts or even coconuts and pineapples to the audience after their dance. According to the Oaxaca Wiki, “The audience stays alert to catch the giftsand to avoid getting hit by projectiles. Pineapples sting the most.”

At Cadman Plaza Park on Sunday, no flying pineapples were observed, but treats of little gifts typical of the various Oaxacan regions filled baskets edging the stage.

According to BFMNY, dancers trained for this event for several months with Artistic Director Jose “Cuco” González.

The festival was also sponsored by the Brooklyn Arts Council, businesses and restaurant Bartender Passion Light and Sound America.

dress guelaguetza festival brooklyn

Photo by Mary Frost.

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