Meet Chelis Lopez, Digital Campaigns Coordinator for the Peace, Life and Justice Caravan and learn about a new Global Exchange Reality Tour to her hometown: Oaxaca, Mexico. 

Chelis at the Graphic Arts Institute of Oaxaca (IAGO) with artist and Institute founder, Francisco Toledo

Chelis at the Graphic Arts Institute of Oaxaca (IAGO) with artist and Institute founder, Francisco Toledo

We here at Global Exchange would like to introduce you to our newest staff member, Chelis Lopez, who has been working at Global Exchange since February running our media support and digital campaigns. Chelis hit the ground running, working tirelessly to draw media attention to the Caravan for Peace, Life and Justice and accompanying the caravan through Central America to Mexico. Now that the caravan has concluded and Chelis is back in the office, we had a chance to chat with her about a new Reality Tour we are offering for the first time this summer that will visit her hometown of Oaxaca, Mexico July 20th-29th. Participants of this exciting new program will witness the Guelaguetza festival, an annual Zapotec tradition that celebrates the values of sharing, reciprocity, and extended community.

The Guelaguetza Festival: Indigenous Resistance tour of Oaxaca Mexico, July 20th-29th

GUELAGUETZAChelis remembers fondly the annual Guelaguetza festival she would attend in her community and the commitment to mutual aid, community strength and solidarity instilled in her by this tradition. She was pleased to know that participants will have the opportunity to experience a small-town Guetalguetza festival, as well as Oaxaca’s state-sponsored celebration in the state capital.  The word Guelaguetza comes from the Zapotec language, and is often interpreted as the “reciprocal exchanges of gifts and services”. The event showcases traditional dances that display each region’s distinct cultural traditions, followed by the sharing of food and gifts. The culture of each family donating food and monetary support is one that Chelis says is central to many milestone events in the community. For example when a family member passes away, all of the neighbors will chip in to help with the ceremony and support the family through the mourning period. Even though she has been living in the Bay Area for 19 years, Chelis says the Guelguetza festival and her cultural heritage define the way she makes community, no matter her geographical location.

In addition to the festival, Oaxaca’s culture reflects the legacy of Indigenous and colonial traditions – meaning bright colors, soaring churches and world renowned culinary specialities, such as the famous mole negro, mezcal, chocolate, tlayudas corn cakes, and chapulines (grasshoppers.) On this Reality Tour, enjoy the rich flavors, artistry and cultural traditions of Oaxaca as we return to this rich and vibrant city. Experience the remarkable Guetalguetza festivities, while also learning how the impacts of free trade agreements, globalization and immigration policies affect local producers and consumers. Registration closes the week of June 6th, so sign up before then and experience the Celebration of Cultures first hand! If you miss the deadline, consider joining the October 26th Day of the Dead Reality Tour of Oaxaca, or join the the Guelaguetza program next year!