Food | Guelaguetza Food Festivals, Oaxaca
Fiercely proud of its pre-Hispanic heritage, Oaxaca (pronounced wa-ha-ka in case you were wondering) is also widely thought of as Mexico’s culinary capital. July is an important month for the city, with festivals dedicated to many regional specialities. Between 16 and 18 July locals gather for the Festival de Moles de Oaxaca, a celebration of Oaxacan sauces. A similar honor is bestowed upon the cheeses of the region, above all the mozzarella-like quesillo which is famed throughout the country. Tamales, soft maize flour dumplings filled with shredded meat and mole,and steamed inside corn husks or banana leaves, get a festival of their own on 23 and 24 July.
Photography | Picasso Revealed by David Douglas Duncan
Offering a unique insight into the life and creative process of one of the greatest artists of the modern era, Picasso Revealed showcases the work of American photojournalist David Douglas Duncan who befriended Picasso in the 1950s. Over the course of a 17-year friendship Duncan made numerous visits to the artist’s home, taking thousands of photographs, many of which are now on display in Mexico City’s Palacio de Bellas Artes. Accompanied by little-known sculptures, paintings, sketches and ceramics produced by Picasso during one of his most creative periods, the photographs provide fresh perspective on the great man, stripping away something of his mystique and affording rare glimpses into his private life.
Drink | Feria Internacional del Mezcal
Earning Oaxaca another spot in the list, the Feria Internacional del Mezcal is a further reason to visit the city this summer. Common throughout Mexico, though lesser-known elsewhere, mezcal is a spirit made from the maguey cactus of which tequila is a variant. The plant is roasted before being crushed, fermented and distilled, a process that gives it a smoky flavor reminiscent of whiskey. The ideal initiation, Oaxaca’s festival offers the chance to try varieties from many of the region’s small producers with exhibitions detailing the history of the drink and the finer points of its production.
Tradition | La Guelaguetza, Oaxaca
Of Mexico’s many historic festivals, La Guelaguetza is among the most evocative. On the last two Mondays in July, representatives from over 50 villages converge on the city of Oaxaca to celebrate the indigenous culture of the region through music and dance. Running alongside the processions and performances are displays of traditional textiles and other handicrafts, with each village boasting distinctive designs. The climax to the proceedings comes in the form of the Danza de la Pluma (‘dance of the feather’) in which men in exquisitely decorated headdresses re-enact the Spanish conquest to an exuberant sound track of rattles, flutes and drums.
Film | Guanajuato International Film Festival
One of the most important film festivals in Latin America, in previous years GIFF has paid tribute to the work of hallowed film-makers including Spike Lee and Tim Burton while providing a platform for emerging talent through its annual competition. Alongside the hundreds of classic and contemporary films shown each year are numerous inspiring master classes, workshops and talks. Better still, and almost unbelievably, all of the events are free of charge, funded entirely by GIFF’s generous sponsors. As innovative as the films on show is the festival’s programming. Held in upwards of 20 venues across Guanajuato and the nearby town of San Miguel de Allende, past screenings have taken place in graveyards, subterranean streets and tunnels.
Folklore | Festival Zacatecas del Folklor International
On the last Sunday in July each year, the city of Zacatecas in central Mexico hosts an energetic celebration of international folklore with an extensive program, strong on traditional music and dance. Local residents in brightly coloured costumes fill the plazas, streets and theaters of the city to celebrate the history of their region, sharing the many stages with performers from elsewhere in Mexico and representatives from as far afield as Russia, Brazil and Korea. Rich in colonial architecture, funded by the region’s extensive silver deposits, Zacatecas provides a spectacular backdrop for the festivities.
Plaza de Armas de las Campañas, Centro, Zacatecas, Mexico, +52 492 923 9607
Music | San Miguel Chamber Music Festival
One of Mexico’s best-established classical music events, San Miguel’s festival celebrates its 36th birthday in 2014. This year’s program centers on the work of contemporary composers, including Don Davis and Christos Hatzis, but includes a liberal sprinkling of old favorites, from Mozart and Beethoven to Brahms. The featured ensembles are of the highest quality, with performances from the critically acclaimed Los Angeles-based Calder Quartet – who perform Arcadiana by leading British composer Thomas Adès on 15 August – and the multi-award-winning Borromeo String Quartet, among the highlights. Held in the warm acoustics of San Miguel’s neo-classical theater, concerts take place every weekend throughout August.
Music | International Mariachi Festival
Perhaps the country’s most recognizable cultural export, mariachi music originated in the western state of Jalisco and is celebrated there every year with a huge festival in Guadalajara, Mexico’s second city. Alongside a full program of concerts, virtuoso performers in elaborately embroidered suits and sombreros compete for the festival’s coveted prizes, while films and photography exhibitions trace the origins and development of the music itself. The dates of this year’s festival are still to be announced but are expected to be released shortly. It usually gets going around the last week in August.
Plaza de la Liberación, Zona Centro, Guadalajara, Mexico, +52 33 3880 9090
Food and drink | Fiestas de la Vendimia
A celebration of the wine harvest, the annual Fiestas de la Vendimia are one of Baja California’s cultural highlights. Street parties light up small towns throughout the region, though the coastal city of Ensenada and the Valle de Guadalupe, a fertile swathe of northern Mexico famed for its wineries, hold the lion’s share of the events. Alongside numerous dinners, boasting menus and wine-pairings overseen by some of the country’s foremost chefs, there are regular concerts, tastings and tours. Those hoping to stay at one of the regions famous bodegas are advised to book early.
Art | En Concreto Exhibition
A celebration of Mexican street art, En Concreto exhibits spectacular murals newly commissioned by the Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli from some of the most exciting young artists on the country’s urban scene, many of them still only in their twenties. Designed to house a vast collection of pre-Hispanic art, the museum is a draw in itself. A vast pyramid of volcanic stone, it was built by the celebrated Mexican painter Diego Rivera in one of Mexico City’s most colorful suburbs. A renowned muralist who drew inspiration from Mexico’s tumultuous history, Rivera’s work adorns many of the country’s historic buildings, making it hard to think of a better venue than Anahuacalli to celebrate a new generation of public artists.