28 septiembre 2011- miercoles
This past month has been full of activities festive and political….my little town rolled out the red carpet for multiple nights of nail-biting elections of various princesses and the ensuing parade…well, maybe just the padres and madres were biting their nails. The princesses were indeed radiant the day of the parade, with their very practiced wave at the crowd…such pros!! Parents really went all out for these formal gowns, and I’m not quite sure how they afforded them…one darling princess in her parade finery is a little friend of me. She is usually dressed in fairly ragged clothes during the day, and I often worry if she is getting good nutrition due to her small size…but perhaps surpassing the oppressive poverty of one’s life for one fantastic moment is worth the sacrifice.
Some interesting and disturbing features of the parade… Interesting features included a ritual-like dance that went on for HOURS to the SAME music…it seemed to be derived from the “Baile de los Conquisadores” (Dance of the Conquisadors) that I had observed the month earlier during feria in San Cristobal, a larger town nearby, where at least there was some acting out of the battle between the Spaniards and the Mayans. Yet that historical aspect seemed to have
been lost by my town and replaced with some inventive modern touches, such as, some kids in costumes as Spiderman…maybe the Conquisadors needed some super power help!! I could not understand how people could watch these same dancers for hours even though it was the same dance pattern and same music. This gringa didn’t quite get the punch line.
In the latter category of disturbing features were beast-like figures flogging each other. Never did really understand that, and when I asked someone why, “Oh, that’s just something they do every year!” The youngest members of my fan
club held me tight as these strange men passed by. Yet what I found most disturbing were the multitudes of boys marching in soldier outfits and goose-stepping like the German army…I heard from someone that this marching looked more “official”, but nonetheless it disturbed me. I attribute the prevalence of such marching in various feria parades to general lack of knowledge of the events from World War II, and how this style of marching harkens to those events. Although perhaps this marching style has been part of military culture here. Seeing boys marching as little soldiers was also a sad reminder of the dark side of Guatemalan military actions against the populace, especially the Mayan indigenous population…I puzzled over how this celebration of the military touched the public psyche.
Back to a brighter note…I also went to Xela to appreciate their city’s desfile (parade) which also occurs on the national Independence day of Sept 15th….Wow! I had no idea of the number of middle and high schools in this 2ndlargest city of the country, and after 4-5 hours of parade-watching I can say with confidence that I am now intimately acquainted with each and every one of the school bands in Xela! In a country where women are often marginalized, I was very pleased to see so many girls in the bands…so music seems an equal opportunity activity. The finale of the Xela parade was several young women dressed in gowns made from trash or recyclables…very creative! My craving for feria activities has now been satisfied…I can now await next year for round 2 of ferias.
I wonder what life would look like in the USA if we had a patron saint feria for each of our towns and cities when basically everything stops for 1-2 weeks to celebrate princesses, bands, carnival games and food. Maybe we would slow down the frantic pace of our lives (a type of virtual flogging) and take ourselves a lot less seriously…yes, there is something to be learned from Guatemalan ferias!!