Independence Day Celebrations in Guatemala
by Ken Veronda.
Any good excuse is a good time for celebration, of course, but September holds a special one: Independence Day on the 15th, but the sounds, smells, tastes and sights are to be enjoyed all month.
There are rich colors to see in this rainy season, with landscape lush; sweet tastes to enjoy, of fresh fruit and mellow coffee; tactile treats in the weavings and carvings around the stalls; sweet smells of the roses, and whiffs of roasting coffee. No need to seek out sounds, however—the BOOM, BOOM, boomboom BOOMs are all around, as schoolchildren practice their marching for the patriotic parades this month.
BOOM ta ta BOOM ta ta BOOMBOOMBOOM! are common enough. BOOM BOOM ta BOOM BOOM ta BOOM ta BOOMBOOM is a popular alternative. Or taBOOM taBOOM taBOOMBOOMBOOM, repeated all down the street. See how many different beats you can identify. Observe the schoolchildren as they parade through the cobblestone streets of La Antigua Guatemala. It doesn’t seem to matter what’s the beat—there is the casual rambling pace, while others are animated, inspired by the rhythms, and then there are the young ones following in step in earnest concentration.
Blue-and-white colors break out, deep blue on new flags of governmental buildings, faded to almost blue-white on flags bleached by the bright September sun. The odor of the month is pungent punk, from the firecrackers and fireworks of celebration.
There’s the president, the governor, the mayors, decked with the blue-and-white sashes of their mandate, making speeches from the balconies, the municipal band ready with trumpets and drums when speeches are done. Classrooms are decorated with drawings of heroes and flags, teaching the next generation about the rich heritage. There are the costumed dancers, the Spanish fighting the Moors, the dances of the animals. If you’re lucky, the toritos may be out, young men bent into frames of stylized bulls strung with firecrackers, chasing gleeful kids in the central squares. Sounds, sights, noise, music of celebration.
And there’s the happiest music of all, the marimba, a single player or a band, or sometimes many bands at the same time. Drink it all in, colors and noises and marchers and speechmakers, blended into happy celebration in the music of the marimba, this month and every month in sensuous Guatemala.