Father's Day

Friday 6.18.10

Yesterday was Father’s Day for all of Guatemala. We had quite a discussion, actually the same discussion with the same people that was had on Mother’s Day, about the fact that those days always fall on Sundays in the US. Why do they always happen on Sundays? How should I know? Do I look like I had a part in the planning of national US holidays? I did not actually say that, but I wanted to. Sometimes I just receive a bunch of ridiculous questions.

We celebrated Father’s Day with a little party and a series of concursos, competitions, which included prizes. Each teacher at the school here came up with one game where two fathers competed to win a prize, although I think that the concept of prize-giving is lost here as both of the participants each received a prize. For all the competitions. I can understand why though, it’s hard to get participation in Guatemala. After the first two competitions we ran out of volunteers so the MC asked the wives to volunteer their husbands. They began calling out names but still the husbands were shy, so then the MC started calling out names to waves of giggles and laughter and pointing from the audience. Everybody in this community knows everybody, and even though there are probably a hundred Josés, when the MC calls “Don José”, everybody just magically knows who he’s talking about.

Each of the teachers took turns with the microphone to explain their competition and to call on the participation of two fathers. When my host mother María, who lost her father almost exactly 15 years ago in a car accident, got the microphone it was clear that she was having a really hard time that day. She got about a half a sentence out before started tearing up and about a whole sentence out before she could no longer hold back from crying. She continued, however, and in the silence while waiting for volunteers to come up, she made a little speech. “I just want to say something to all of you out there who still have your fathers: care for them, love them, because fathers are precious and wonderful and someday they will no longer be here. I still love my father, I think about him even though he is in Heaven and not with me, and this day is hard for me. I am not embarrassed at all because I love my father and for all of you it’s important you understand just how special fathers are.” I couldn’t tell you why but I started tearing up also. I have not lost anyone that close to me in my life so I have no idea how hard it would be, but for some reason I started feeling so sad listening to María talk about her dad through her sniffles and glassy eyes. Shortly after she received her two volunteers, the competition continued, and everybody’s spirits lifted, although for the rest of the day it was hard to look at María because I knew nothing I had to say could ever be enough.

The first competition consisted of two fathers making tortillas. Each was given a ball of masa, corn mush, and proceeded to roll it and clap it between their hands to form a tortilla. After about a minute the crowd decided by round of applause who the winner was. The second competition consisted of a dance, where two dirty old men with very few teeth and who probably smelled of working in the field all day were given two lovely young (15ish probably) lady students from the institute to dance with. It would have been more than sufficient to dance for just a minute to some culturally typical marimba dance of Guatemala, but no, they danced for at least 7 minutes to various types of music: a waltz, a typical marimba song, the theme to the World Cup 2010, and yes, bumpin’ and grindin’ club music. I felt so embarrassed for the two girls but the crowd had a blast and all the participants were really good sports about it. Another competition consisted of two fathers, who were again given to young girl volunteers, and were instructed to do the hair of the girls. Both fathers combed and braided the long black hair of the girls, to my surprise, quite well. In another competition two fathers were given blusas, the typical top worn her by the women, corte, the skirt, and the faja, a special belt used to hold up their corte. They were in a race to dress themselves and then had to do a little dance once they had put on all their traje, what all the traditional clothing is called . During the middle of the dance one of the fathers lost his corte due to a loose faja and all the women in the crowd burst out in laughter. That was my favorite competition. My second favorite competition was when two fathers were given little baby dolls, had to dress them, and then had to wear them on their back using a square of cloth, which is the typical manner of baby/child transportation here in Guatemala. My counterpart José won this competition because his opponent could not properly tie down his child. This again resulted in uproarious laughter from the females in the crowd, including myself.

This was way better then the Mother’s Day competitions we had. Although the theme didn’t really have anything to do with Father’s Day, as all the competitions were really things that fathers never actually do, everybody had a really great time and I believe all went home in good spirits.

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