At 1:30 p.m. Eric dropped me and Janet off at the base of the amphitheatre for the 5 p.m. performance. We were warned to get there early to get a good seat. Even though we had purchased tickets in advance for a specific section, seating is general admission for the section. Ours was 1A izquierda t $400 pesos each. We began the climb from the street ascending via a series of steep staircases jammed with food and toy vendors and people exiting from the morning performance. It was a slow ascent because of the heat, the pack of people and the sheer vertical climb. I found myself needing to stop every 50 steps to catch my breath! I have no idea how or where people park if they travel by car. Buses lined the major thoroughfare and they represented all the villages and regions of Oaxaca.
During the afternoon, the climate changed from hot and humid to a 30 minute intense rain downpouring. Dancers were given heavy red plastic coverings to protect elaborate costumes and floral arrangements. We were unprepared and purchased little plastic sheets that did little to keep us from getting wet! But, there is a festival air to the entire extravaganza and the indigenous costumes are incredible. The performance lasts a good 4 hours, since there are about 30 different regions represented by dancers and each group has about a 15 minute performance on stage. Musicians from the regions participate as well.
Guelaguetza means offering, exchange, and mutual support represented in the dance by giving and receiving the special foods of each region. At the end of each performance, the troupe throws goody bags from their baskets to the audience and those who sit close to the front are the fortunate ones who receive: ground chocolate, cookies, bread, coffee beans, fruit. We even saw one group tossing potatoes into the crowd.
It is well worth the experience to do this once! My preference is to be in the local villages to experience the traditions in a more authentic way, so this will likely be my first and last Guelaguetza.