The making of these processional carpets is such a community-forming and bonding activity since in the process participate many, if not all, of the neighbors and family members. These traditions, festive calendar dates and special celebrations mark very strongly what makes a normal human being into a hard-core Guatemalan. You break the link or access to these experiences and you only have a person that was born in Guatemala; a fact as worthless as the fact of having had a pair of boots once.
The charcoal-grilled meat stall has gotten so hip that you now find it not only in fairs, but around La Antigua Guatemala in parks, markets and sidewalks. Back in February 20th, 2007, I showed you an extremely popular stall of grilled meats in Tanque de la Unión park from a bird’s eye point of view. In the picture above, chicken and beef steak were being offered along broiled potatoes. Q10 ($1.25) for a portion of the meat of your choice, chirmol (read the side note), guacamol and potatoes; definitely, not too bad of a deal.
The Latin American lottery is played with cardboards of nine images, each cardboard is different, bean or maize counts, and a person calling out aloud the name of the images: La Chalupa, El Borracho, El Catrín, La Campana, El Cantaro, et-cetera. Whoever gets all nine images called out and accounted for with beans or maize seeds wins the lottery, if, and only if they scream with all their lungs LO-TE-RIIIIAAAAA.
After all the pounds we have gained this week at the San Pedro Las Huertas Fair, it is nice to come across some healthy food. For Q5 ($0.65) we can take any fresh fruit bags and we will need the savings since we already lost quite a few Quetzales at the others fair stands. Now, even though I have shown all these Guatemalan fair food and even describe it as tasteful and delicious, I don’t want to pass it as healthy. Fair food is junk food. I am so glad these fair food vendors have not come across the Super Size Me concept!
Papas fritas is the Guatemalan Spanish name for French fries. Here is the abbreviated history that gave us the Guatemalan french fries stall: first the Quechuas or Incas domesticated the potato (Solanum tuberosum) into a crop in southern Peru and northern Bolivia; the Spanish conquistadors took it to Europe where it was an instant hit and along with maize turned a famine-prone population into a healthy society; somewhere in one of the northern European states, quite possibly Germany, the potato lost its skin and got deep-fried; This Eurpean recipe crossed the Atlantic with the new immigrants that came to U.S. and since it was a foreign-looking recipe, they called it French fries (remember Coneheads); so the French fries came to Guatemala along one of the many incursions from the United Stateians (Americans they seem to call themselves 😉 ) as a side dish for the hamburger or the hot dog. Guatemalans thought that French fries were too good to be side dish and turned it into a meal by itself. That is how the papas fritas cart came to be.
A recent addition to the Guatemalan Fair zoo is the pizza kiosk. Just like many other aspect of modern Guatemala idiosyncrasy, pizza has come to stay, but it must evolve, just like chinese food. So the typical Guatemalan town fair pizza is made from a less tasteful dough, only mozzarella cheese and ham; nothing more. You get your slice and normally ad ketchup to it. The Guatemalan town fair pizza stand is, almost invariable, managed by one or tow young indigenous teenagers or young adults with a taste for extremely heavy rock metal music which they blast from a portable boom box. The pizza booth may have posters describing their pepperoni or salami pizza even though they only sell ham pizza. Go figures!
We continue the photographic tour of a Guatemalan town fair with a typical booth. Since the inflated toys and balloons are very obvious, we will play the game of naming everything else that you see on the table. I will get you started with the bags of peanuts on the left. Now it is your turn, name as many things as you can recognize. Let the game begin!
Almost all town fairs and festivities are around the town’s patron, in this case is San Pedro Las Huertas, which by the way, means Saint Peter of the vegetable gardens. Since Guatemala was a catholic country for the last 500 years or so and the Mesoamerican indigenous people absorbed and mixed the catholic rituals and traditions with their own religious beliefs and traditions, most Guatemalan towns have a Spanish catholic first name and often an indigenous last name (otherwise known as the original name). For example, Santo Domingo Xenacoj, which means the original name of the town was Xenacoj, and the town was re-christen with Santo Domingo. Now with the above information, we now know that a town’s fair happens once-a-year on the town’s catholic patron. For San Pedro Las Huertas the date is June 29th and for La Antigua Guatemala is July 25th because the city used to be called The Very Noble and Very Loyal City of Saint James of the Lords of Guatemala, as mentioned by Manolo a few days ago. And some of you thought La Antigua Guatemala was already a very long name; try explaining to your friends and relatives that you are planning a vacation to The Very Noble and Very Loyal City of Saint James of the Lords of Guatemala.