Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dia de Independencia

Today is the 190th anniversary of Guatemalan Independence.  Last week the blue and white flags started going up around town.  In the Mercado on Saturday vendors were doing a steady business selling them in all sizes. 

The Quetzal, national bird of Guatemala
Yesterday morning there was a parade with younger kids.  In the afternoon, we heard whistles and the sound of running.  Students from the various schools were carrying torches and blow whistles, running out to let everyone know that Guatemala is free.  Dona Cristi told us that they run out to the surrounding areas, some several miles away.  Proclaiming freedom is not for the weak!  I think it’s an awesome tradition. 
Last night there was marimba music in Parque Central, along with the firecrackers and boombas (loud air cannons) necessary for any and every celebration here.  The boombas go off randomly during different occasions, at all hours of the day and night.  I heard the first one of the day this morning at 4am.  Independence Day was here!

One of the (many!) school bands
For weeks now, every Saturday we’ve been hearing bands practicing in the various schools around town.  The education system here is different, of course, but the approximate equivalent is Junior and Senior High. 
these guys were dancing with these big drums -
and kept perfect time!
Marlena (my friend Nivia's younger sister)
and partner dancing in the parade.
You can see proud Nivia in the background!
Today was their big day to shine. The marching bands here love percussion. It almost seemed they were competing to see who could be the loudest. They sounded great, and it was fun to see each school sporting different uniforms, and doing something a little different from the others. Some were in traditional dress, others had flags and batons. There were a lot of ‘Senorita’s of different kinds. I saw Miss Sports, Kindness, Cultural, and more. 

Kids in traditional clothing.
One of the things which never ceases to amaze me is the way the girls here can walk cobblestone streets in super high heels. I’m including some for you to see. (And yes, my love of shoes may have a little to do with how many pictures there are!)
High heels & cobblestones
Don't try this at home!!
I noticed they stayed to the bigger 'cobbles'
but there's still no way I could do it!

Possibly my favorite part of the parade was when several students ran by holding high big streamer-filled quetzals (see picture at the top of this post).  The quetzal lives in the northern jungle area of the country, and seeing one is a rare occurrence.  The quetzal cannot survive in captivity.  It only lives when it is allowed to be free.  The quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala, symbolizing the freedom the people here desire.  Watching these young people running in the streets of Antigua, holding high the quetzal was very moving.

The parade of schools went on for two hours.  Once they got to the Parque Central there were speeches and presentations, followed by more festivities.  Dona Cristi said the whole thing lasts around four or five hours.  Like last night, tonight there will be more concerts and fireworks and boombas.  The sun has been shining for most of the day, minus a thirty minute thunderstorm around 1pm.

Guatemalan youth carrying their national symbol of freedom.
Guatemala is a country which has been independent for nearly 200 years, but it has been an independence filled with war and turmoil.  Perhaps that’s why the celebrations here are so big and loud and involve so much of the city.  

The parents of these students were alive during the recent past years of turmoil.  I imagine they hope for a peace-filled country for their children.  A country where people are permitted to say what they think, even in opposition, and not be fearful for their lives.  A country where basic human rights are honored, and basic needs are met.  A place of freedom. 

Oh Father, bless this nation, bless these people I have grown to love.  May they not just dream about freedom, but find it.  I know that true freedom can only come through knowing You.  Thank you for the churches and missions here, working to show Your Son.  May the Guatemalan people continue to strive to live in freedom, to live in You.


  1. I love all the pictures! It looks like such a fun way to celebrate. It seems that all of Central America is celebrating independence day today! :)

  2. Kim I think it is hilarious how you noticed the shoes!