Fiesta: Day 1

Guatemalans know how to party. This afternoon I had the best time of my whole two weeks. Today is my two week anniversary here at my training site and I celebrated it with: children dressed up like “abuelitos” (grandparents) or old people, men dressed up as women, children dressed up as cartoon characters with incredibly large heads, and drunk guys riding horses while re-enacting a Christian history. Yes, this all occurred in my small, conservative, and rather poor town.

The day started with Spanish class in Antigua, the touristy city a half hour camioneta ride away from home. We walked around the town, got a tour of a small Jade factory, and then went to the market to try different fruits. We didn’t find much that was interesting so we went to the paca instead. The paca is basically a really really large market of second-hand clothes shipped over from the US. Most of the stuff you have to sift through to find something nice, of your size, and that you would actually wear. The same with shoes. But I found one vendor who is really organized with their shoes, and respectively more expensive, but it was worth it to find two pairs of new shoes in my size. This was my first real experience in haggling. My pair of Asics started at Q350; I told her I could pay Q250. She upped it to Q275 and I said I needed to think about it and that I may buy another pair. I found a pair of Keens and she said they cost the same, Q350 but would give them both to me for Q500 total. I told her I only brought Q450 (which was the truth) so I could either buy one pair, or both for Q450. It worked and I walked away with both pairs of new shoes for less than US $50 total. I’m pretty proud, especially because anything having to do with talking about money makes me incredibly uncomfortable. And now I actually have a pair of tennies to play basketball in.

Next comes my favorite part of the day. I returned home around 1pm to a really good lunch, and as soon as I finished this oddball of a parade began right outside my front door.

First came the “baile de los abuelitos”, dance of the grandparents. Kids of the young teenage years dress up with old-people masks, canes, and dress and then dance a well-choreographed dance up and down the street. A pickup truck, complete with streamers and banners and the works, precedes them blasting music from speakers housed on the truck bed. People crowded the sides of the street and alleyways to watch.

Second came the cross-dressers. The men go all out for this. Think of those guys in high school or college that you know put weeks of effort into their Halloween costume, makeup, and the whole act. Then narrow down that thought to the guy who did all that but would only dress up as a women. Then imagine at least 50-75 of them from teenagers to at least mid-centurions all dancing in the street, also following another tricked out pickup truck blasting music. I could not stop laughing. It was so weird, but also really interesting to see this from a conservative small town that really should not be blowing its money on stuff like this. Oh yes, and they also had a fake Michael Jackson casket complete with cross-dressing pallbearers.

Next came the Looney Toon parade. Kids dressed up like your regular cartoon characters, Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Yogi Bear, etc… with really really large heads. They also had a choreographed dance which they performed in the street, again to music toted by a pickup. Some of these kids really had rhythm, and all of them got really, really in to it. It didn’t hurt that all the costume heads were stuck in the grinning position, which just made it look even more like they were really enjoying themselves. Though I imagine wearing that head for the entire day would get a little hot and humid.

Oh yeah, these dancers, all three groups of them, danced these same dances which lasted at least 10-15 minutes, at least five or more times during the day.

Next came the float parade. All Christian themed. Actually the whole day was ultra-Christian themed (not a surprise as basically all town events are centered around the church). They had kids dressed up as angels, temptations, wise men, the Virgin Mary, Jesus at various ages in his life, and way more. Boy I hope I’ll eventually be able to upload pictures.

Then came the faux sword fights on horseback. Two teams: blue and red. Blue are the good guys, the people that are declaring that there is only one god. Red are the bad guys, who are declaring, as I understand it, that there are more than just one god. Obviously in this town the blue guys win. But it is portrayed by these different people, I think ten in total, dressed up in costumes and masks galloping horses up and down the street shouting proclamations, sword fighting each other, and just putting on a show. I have heard that in some towns there is a horseback sword fight that occurs after both the riders and the horses get drunk. Now that I would like to see, though I think it may be rather difficult to get a horse drunk. And I don’t think I would really approve of that anyway.

Later in the night all the first three dances occurred again, all the while bombas (firecrackers) and fireworks were going off in the central park of the town, people selling street food and fair food, and finally some sort of procession went through the street and into the Catholic church. That was more or less the end of day-one. Tomorrow there will be more, as well as more dancing during the night. We all waited up late tonight for the dancing because us gringos are used to Friday and Saturday nights being the nights to party. But apparently Guatemaltecos party on Sundays. So great, I have one more day of weird and interesting happenings to look forward to.

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