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La Torcha y Marching Bands- It’s Independence Day!

September 16, 2011
September 15, It’s Independence Day in Guatemala…

The weeks leading up to Independence Day (but mostly the day before) many people run the torch (which I hear represents liberty) around Guatemala. On my way home from work yesterday this caused a lot of sitting and waiting in the car. Anybody and everybody runs- school groups, friends, young and old- buses full of people follow (and take turns running). I’ve never seen so many buses at one time, and they are just packed with people- inside, hanging on the outsides, sitting and standing on the tops. Although this behavior of packed buses is somewhat normal in Guatemala, it was definitely crazier and busier than the average daily commute. Apparently any route can be taken and any distance is run- although my driver this night, Alex, told me when he did it they ran 15 kilometers (for September 15th). Those that don’t run line the streets and throw water at the people, buses, trucks, and torches- supposedly in an attempt to extinguish the torch (although that doesn’t make much sense to me and I think they just think it’s fun). Whatever the reason- they throw water around like crazy. The fill up little plastic bags with water to make “water balloons” and they fill up whatever buckets or pitchers they can find and use them to throw water out into the street at the runners. The torches appear to be hand made- many out of some kind of stick and a coffee can.

Unfortunately I don’t have any decent pictures of this as I was in a car with tinted windows and was not going to roll down the window in the middle of the crowd to take a picture. But after lots of searching online to try to find a picture or video of what I’m talking about I found this link from the prensa libre (the local newspaper).

This isn’t exactly what it was like in the small town of Barcenas- it was a MUCH bigger deal there, but you get the idea. I don’t know spanish well enough to know what the bombero is saying, but I have a feeling he was giving a message to be careful- on my ride home there were two ambulances that passed us and I could hear more once I was home. Running with fire all over town can be very dangerous!

Here are the two best (but still terrible) photos I was able to capture:

Can you spy the guys on top of the bus?

Some people run, some people ride... one terrible picture, but you can kind of see a torch in this photo

Today, September 15th I worked from home- the factory is closed (as is much of Guatemala). But after work I ventured to the center of Antigua to find a city full of Guatemalans- a nice surprise after the typical weekend after weekend of touristas. I took a stroll around and grabbed a bite to eat and then I got a to see the marching bands (I could hear them most of the day and really most of the month- probably practicing for this big day). There were so many! All the bands in town must play- they parade into town down 4a Avenida and pack together in front of the church. I was a little late to get a good view, but I tried to take photos just to show you how packed it is- this is quite the event in Guatemala!

Marching Bands (corner of 4a avenida and 5a calle)

Marching bands (Right Center towards corner of 4a avenida and 5a calle)

In addition to the bands there are food vendors, street vendors selling the usual things- bracelets, candy, scarves, ice cream, shoe shines and MORE- balloons, cotton candy, face painting, hair braiding- so many things going on in the street at once!

Lots of food vendors

Fruit and Cotton Candy- I think this is funny, at least they have healthy options 🙂

Bringing in the horses- normally they come riding down our street from the farms but this horse and carriage must have come from further away

I enjoyed the short time listening to the bands- standing on the curb on my tippy toes trying to see, but back home I went. I didn’t want to get caught in the rain because two nights ago I accidentally left our nice Hitchiner umbrella at the pet store 😦

I got home in time to work on my spanish homework, Stuardo (my spanish teacher) came to give me my lesson and now I wait for Brian to get home- can’t wait to see him. I wish he could have been here to see the festivities!


Here is another good site for pictures of the festivities in Antigua if you care to see more:

One Comment leave one →
  1. Julie Zimmer permalink
    September 16, 2011 6:38 pm

    Watched a video clip. Governor Brandstad wants Iowans to “be the healthiest state” so maybe we would be wise to adopt the Independence Day torch runs here!

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