Roundabout when I was a senior in high school or maybe a freshman in college I set a life goal for myself of coining a phrase. I knew you couldn’t force a term into existence and hope it will stick so I knew I had to just wait. I think now, in the week of my 46th birthday, it’s finally happened.
The term is guelaguetzafication. It is easily translated into Spanish by changing one letter and adding one accent mark, guelaguetzaficación. The meaning is when you take a cultural practice, polish it, infuse it with professional-level art and production and turn it into a show that you can not only sell tickets to, but create hundreds of other economic opportunities around it to sell to people who never took part in the original cultural practice. There is also a component that the majority of the profit is not for the people from whom the cultural practice originated from and because they are not professionals, they may also be slid out of view of the adoring consumers, replaced by trained performers. For something to be true guelaguetzafication there should also be capitalistic growth for growth’s sake around the cultural practice. One dance show is not enough, we need to make it a run, and add a mescal festival at the same time, an some other shows, and a craft fair, and as many other side events as possible because the tourists want to make the most of their visit and we need to get that money out of their pockets. These additional events will have the look of being traditional, and even while baring names starting with “3rd annual” the tourists will be convinced that they are taking part in authentic traditions because that is what they want to believe.
I want to be clear; this is not necessarily a bad thing. It could be positive or negative, depending on where you are in the equation.