Festivals
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Festivals are a huge part of Guatemalan life. The biggest, best, and most colourful is the celebration of Holy Week, and Good Friday is the most spectacular day of all.
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The streets are teeming with the holy deceased as massive, saint-bearing platforms are paraded through town. It's important to let everyone know they're coming. Bands are good. They make a lot of noise and, if you're good, you can join in and wear a funky outfit.
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I'm not kidding about the bands. It's important to make a lot of noise. Loud noise. Not necessarily tuneful noise. But if you have a blue tuba (is that a tuba) who cares. If I had a blue tuba I'd make any kind of noise I fancied. So there.
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Carol Roberts says...
"FYI - since you asked....the blue instrument in the photo is actually a sousaphone (named after the great American composer John Phillip Sousa who composed a lot of marches for marching bands). It is a type of tuba but is "worn" on the person who is marching in a band. (How's that for details?)" (1/30/14)
Jana says...
"A blue sousaphone - even more reason to make a loud and joyful noise Natalie!" (1/31/14)
 
The saint-bearing platforms could be on wheels. Maybe they could be supported by motorized vehicles. But wheels and vehicles aren't awesome looking - and they don't earn you any years off of purgatory. Little boys dressed in black carrying a massively heavy piece of cultural fabulousness...that's a much better way to do it.
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Aletta says...
"That thing sure looks heavy." (2/14/14)
 
Let's get closer - I know you want to see their suffering faces. It's a big deal honour to carry the platforms. It's very important that they are agonizingly heavy to carry. Lots of people take your photograph because you look amazing.
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There are saints; there are angels; but mostly there are statues of Jesus in various states of demise. Carrying a Jesus platform is the biggest of the big deals.
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Aletta says...
"So most of the people ARE Christian?" (2/14/14)
 
And then there are the carpets. These are amazingly fantastic. People pay for the honour of making these gorgeously elaborate works of art. It's mostly coloured sawdust. It's wholly incredible. They take hours and hours to make, and the streets are lined with these glorious explosions of colour. It's too great for words.
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Really, if you lived here, wouldn't you just want to hug every person who makes these? It would take a lot of hugging, but I have time on my hands.
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But the best part...the ABSOLUTE most fantastically great part, is the soldiers. Who would not love a country where grown men get dressed up as Roman soldiers - on purpose? It is so great. I love the soldiers. I want to hug them too.
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See? I wasn't kidding. Roman soldiers are a big deal in modern Guatemala. Personally, I am loving the gladiators sandals these guys are rocking. I want a pair.
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Aletta says...
"Sweet!" (2/14/14)
 
You thought I was exaggerating about the soldiers, am I right? Nope. Carpets, soldiers...and the platforms are on the way.
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They weigh several tonnes each. The platforms, not the men. Most of the carriers sweat profusely. It's hard work. But there are always a few sneaky fakers in there. Look at Mr. Calm and Collected on the right. He's just not trying. Am I right? Cheater.
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The women get to carry statues of the Virgin Mary - proving to the world that a girl doesn't have to sacrifice style to tragedy.
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The most important woman of all gets to stand at the front. She's not carrying much weight, but she has the power to lead them wherever her fancy might take her.
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Aletta says...
"What does "Reina la paz" mean?" (2/14/14)
 
And then there are the outfits that are more than a little creepy. I don't like these. There's just something about robes and pointy hats that I don't enjoy.
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I know it's not a KKK thing. It's an ancient Spanish thing. But it's creepy, no?
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K. Schuurman says...
"Creepy...yes! Definitely yes!" (2/2/14)
 
This is the most important statue of the day. It's the biggest. It's the heaviest. It's the most spectacular...and it's the only won that is carried right through the carpets, destroying all the hard work and hours of creative magic that went in to making them.
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Aletta says...
"Wow. Very realistic. It's funny how every culture draws/shows Jesus as one of their own with the same colour skin and everything." (2/14/14)
 
But it's okay. The nice people know the carpets will be destroyed. They don't mind them being destroyed by Jesus, and as soon as he has passed through, they get busy re-making their little works of art for the next procession.
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Anyone fancy doing this six times a day?
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Aletta says...
"That's what you call commitment and determination!" (2/14/14)
 
That's why these ladies chose to carry the Virgin - less work that making the carpets.
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But don't worry because you can always take a break and make friends with a Roman centurion.
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Aletta says...
"Has anyone seen the Roman Centurion Cornelius there? :)" (2/14/14)
 
And all your work will be worth it when someone gives you a balloon. I'd work for balloons...and candy. I'd definitely work for candy.
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But the fun doesn't stop in the big cities. Even the small towns get in on the action.
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In San Cristobal, AV, the good locals make a carpet that is a mile long!
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They start in the middle of the night, while it's still dark, and create a masterpiece of colour for their friends and neighbours to enjoy.
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K. Schuurman says...
"Very impressive!" (2/2/14)
 
In San Cristobal candles are a really big part of Good Friday. Really big candles.
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I mean really, REALLY big candles. I bought a few of these super-huge candles once. I thought they'd look good in a pot. They did...until the weather warmed up and the candles wilted - like limp tulips. It was a sad day.
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Aletta says...
"Awwww" (2/14/14)
 
They nice ladies have shawls on their heads to keep off the sun. I love it that they do that.
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Big candles = big flames. She's going to set her shawl on fire.
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The boys get really fancy outfits as compensation for not getting to hold the huge candles.
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These little gaffers are sucking on bags of water. Cute, right?
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In case you'd forgotten about the huge flames...I just wanted to show you again.
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Aletta says...
"Kinda scary." (2/14/14)
 
Okay, one boy gets to carry one candle. It's not nearly as great as the chick candles though.
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The fellas carry this big platform all the way from the church that sits high on the hill down to the church that sits in the centre of town.
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Their statues change every year...although Jesus carrying the cross is always there. This one was one of my favourites.
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Jesus, carrying the cross, in a boat with saints Peter and Thomas. Add in some smiling styrofoam fish and you have a recipe for Good Friday greatness!
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Aletta says...
"So they go through all that work making statues every year? Wow. Wish we had that kind of work put into Good Friday here in Canada." (2/14/14)
 
This guy knows what I'm talking about.
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Again with the candles. We love the candles.
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I'm not so keen on the dead Jesus in the coffin though. But that's a very popular part of Good Friday too. And then everything kinda fizzles out and Easter Sunday is no big whoop. Pity.
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Aletta says...
"That is a pity. :(" (2/14/14)
 
But it's not only about Easter...Guatemala is very proud of itself, and Guatemalan Independence Day is a big deal celebration.
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All the school kids get dressed up. I know school kids everywhere get dressed up, but really, where do you see dressing up as fabulous as this? They are just SO beautiful.
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Sigh...
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Eek...!!! So gorgeous.
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What better way to celebrate your nation than to dress up? I love dress up. These boys are wearing dress that is still used by some of the older Maya men - especially when they head out to plant their corn. Scarlet and white - we all know it's a perfect combination.
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I have one of the those fabby red hair doohickey things. It hangs on my wall. I think it would hurt if it hung on my head, but she seems all kinds of happy about it.
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This munchkins are the former presidents of Guatemala...and their pretty sidekicks! The photocopied masks are wonderful.
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Meanwhile in Nebaj...the Ixil people win any parade competition because they are so amazingly beautiful. Just look at these guys!
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Yeah, for real, they dress like this. Not all the time, but for a lot of it, and certainly for festivals and religious celebrations.
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Speechless..!
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Going to church clothes.
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And then there's a parade. You've got to have a parade if you're really planning to celebrate. It's the rule.
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And if you're in a parade you'll need a costume. Sweetie here is a Quetzal...of course!
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Some costumes are cute.
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Some need to be rethought.
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But they all fill the day with fun and colour.
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Aletta says...
"Pinky." (2/14/14)
 
Good Friday - done. Guatemalan Independence - done. Now for the saints' days. Every town has a patron saint. Every saint is celebrated. There are parades. There is music. And, in Nebaj, there is a "come and weigh yourself" concession in the town square because nothing says "let's celebrate the Saint Mary of Nebaj" quite like finding out you've gained ten pounds.
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Jana says...
":o)" (1/31/14)
 
If you need to sit down after finding out the terrible truth about your weight you can just plonk yourself down on the church steps and watch a little bit of Conquistador dancing.
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These fellas keep the beat.
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These fellas dance.
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And everyone else watches.
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It's an excellent system! They are conquistadors - the baddie Spanish who invaded Guatemala and took over.
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The Maya aren't too keen on the Spanish invaders, so they dress up and mock them in dance.
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All while wearing fabulous outfits.
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Everyone should dress up like a conquistador at least once in their lives.
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But only if you don't get to dress up as a Roman soldier first.
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