28 septiembre 2010-martes –
Worthy of a recap…Independence Day week was full of celebration here. Music from high schools bands practicing their routines and songs had been filling the air for weeks prior to this event…and of course, fireworks crackling more often, too.
Monday, September 13th was the youth parade in my town with darling 5-6 year olds dressed up in the many indigenous outfits from the different areas (departamentos) of Guatemala. Taking their role so seriously, not many cracked a smile. Tuesday night as I returned home from the Peace Corps office, my bus got caught up in a major traffic jam in Antigua…the evening before Independence Day are the torchlight runs of youth and other groups. Although technically outlawed by the government this year due to some hazardous road conditions from the rainstorms, local mayors decided to allow some “atorchas” …so our bus slowly passed various groups of runners heading down the streets with the lead runner holding a torch aloft…a momentous scene of patriotism.
Wednesday, September 15th welcomed a grand parade in most towns for the national holiday…the theme for our town this year was about caring for the environment (medio ambiente). Various signs implored people to keep the streets and rivers clean from litter (a major problem here). An amusing image was of children dragging their stuffed animals along by rope to highlight the environmental hazard of dead animals in the street…pobrecitos!
A group of children walked by each holding examples of different Guatemalan food…three of us bystanders, two policemen and myself, witnessed a chubby boy walking along blithely sampling his bowl of beans…we all laughed! Sometimes my smile and wave brought a smile in return…among a sea of darker hair and skin, I do stand out. Bystanders provided much color to this holiday with the rainbow of colors of Mayan traje (outfits).
Other events included inflating mini hot air balloons made of paper…these creations of approximately 6ft tall would then be released, with a fire inside them! Thankfully the surrounding vegetation is quite green so there seemed to be no concern of starting forest fires wherever the 8 or so hot air balloons decided to land. Two Peace Corps friends participated in the 15K run…getting recognition as they circled through the plaza during their laps. The “Catch the Ring” horse competition was impossibly difficult! A rope was strung across the street with about 25 two ft long strings with metal rings at the end. Riders were to have their horses pass under the rope at a trot, and they were to try to snatch a ring with a straw through its 1.5” hole! So funny to watch the attempts…from the young man whose horse refused to trot to the elderly man who stopped dead still under the rope while stabbing at various rings….he still couldn’t manage to snag a ring!
No winner emerged from catching the ring on horseback , so the crowd moved towards the greased pole. A group of 3-4 men climbed onto each other’s shoulders, getting completely black from the grease (motor oil?)…grimaces from the participants as their teammates stepped on their faces. I asked a man next to me if there generally were winners for this game…”Si, pero tarda tiempo” (yes, but it takes awhile) he replied. Darkness arrived and after a full day on my feet I headed home…apparently, no one ever did get above the halfway mark of the 5 meter high pole…so no one won the prize of 600 quetzales ($75)…No one seemed to care about the lack of victors, the attempts were enough amusement. Thankfully we had arrived in time to Guatemala to witness this important holiday!