You discovered how Guatemalans enjoy pyrotechnics the first morning you awoke before dawn to strings of pops and loud booms. Nothing serious happening, just friends celebrating a birthday or anniversary.
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That evening you may see fireworks from next door or across town, from a fiesta, concert, or just having fun. Fireworks are for any old day, not just for independence.
Pyrotechnics delight four of our five senses. The colors in the sky, the sound of fire crackers, the smell of gunpowder, even the metallic taste of smoke in the mouth, all senses but touch are pleased, and we hope that last sense isn’t hurt by a burn.
Guatemalans fire them off at dawn and dusk, year-round, with especially wild displays for Christmas, New Years and other holidays, just for fun.
The ear-ringing boom of a mortar comes from a bag of powder dropped in a short pipe standing in the street. If you see a pipe with a cord stretching from it, stay clear; the boys who place them may be ready to light the fuse. Mortars are placed at street crossings in advance of a procession or simply shot off at a house as a celebration.
Same with firecrackers, strung along the sidewalk in front of a house or sometimes all the way down the block. Firecrackers can be attached to wood frames in the form of el torito, a bull, with a young man underneath to delight little kids by chasing them as the crackers go off. The guy inside charges close to the screaming kids, all in fun even if a bit loud.
Fireworks are beautiful against the velvety night sky, though my favorite are globos, colored tissue-paper balloons as big as the maker, filled with hot air from a smoldering cotton wad at the base and set free to float over town. Quiet, too. Maybe too quiet, as globos are launched rarely, but good loud mortars and firecrackers are to be heard and enjoyed daily.