That is right, Semana Santa in Guatemala is an equal opportunity celebration. Sure, cucuruchos take the majority of the clicks of cameras and most of the video recorded, but children, women and dogs have a place in the Holy Week celebrations. Women’s float or andas are a bit smaller and carry virgins or angels most of the time.
Just like the Christmas Season comes with its own set of smells, flavors and color palette, so does the Holy Week celebrations. I can bring to you still photos, slide shows, video clips and sounds. But I can not bring you the smells. Like I said back in the Virgin of Guadalupe Day, … the incredible power of the sense of smell can detonate nostalgic memories… if only the smells could be seized like Patrick Süskind suggested in his masterpiece Das Parfum (Perfume). How could one go about imprisoning the mixture of the smells of copal incense, corozo palms, fireworks, pine needles, moisten saw dust, fresh tropical fruits, palm flower arrangements and sweat into a digital format readily available to download onto your own computer?
So much mumble jumble to present the underneath view of a Holy Week float in one of the villages of La Antigua Guatemala. Andas (floats) are not only the affair of cucuruchos, women also participate; and sometimes even chuchos (street dogs) get involved in the penitent act of carrying the heavy float! 😉
Every once in a while is good to stop eating Guatemalan food and eat something healthy, like a chef salad from La Fuente restaurant. A salad and the New Yorker Magazine is what I consider a healthy lunch. The article about an unknown photographer by the name of Eugene De Salignac and his photo of painters spreading out like musical notes, on the Brooklyn Bridge, over the sky line of New York, was most definitely the best dessert I have had in a long while.
I find the singing of the indigenous people extremely haunting and touching, even though, they are singing evangelical hymns. To me this singing has another layer of pain and denouncing which is above the meaning of the words they sing; something much older and more mystical than the religious hymn brought by the European Christianity.
Guy’s description of the restaurant fit it to the t: “…wood-panelled and decorated with specimens of local â€˜game’ such as snakes, turtles and armadilloes.” La Naranja Pelada restaurant falls into the tacky category of restaurants or bars that have an exotic, underground sort of, appeal for intellectuals and ordinary people alike. Another example of this is the bar El Olvido in Guatemala City. I dislike most of what I saw inside La Naranja Pelada (peeled orange), but especially the animal decoration on the walls and bar. Also the full-size ‘Marlboro Man’ poster is of poor taste in my book. This weekend We rented the film Thank You for Smoking directed by Jason Reitman and there was a chapter about the Marlboro Man who was dying from all the years of smoking. Talk about synchronicity.
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.
I don’t know if you have noticed this, but seeds are very popular in Guatemala. If you recall the entries Name the seeds! or Guatemalan sweets; so it is obvious that seeds had to present in a fair booth. Okay, what do we have here? Peanuts in their shell, Guatemalan pumpkin in melcocha syrup, sesame seeds with melcocha, salty fried or roasted habas (broad beans); that’s as far as I can distinguish. Read the entry on Guatemalan sweets if you want to know what is melcocha.
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!
A town fair is not a fair without the churros. A churreria is the place where they make churros; [CHOOR-roh] Similiar to a cruller, this Spanish, Mexican and Guatemalan specialty consists of a sweet-dough spiral that is deep-fried and eaten like a doughnut. Churros are usually coated with a mixture of cinnamon and confectioners’ (or granulated) sugar (source Answers.com). Just about now after looking the Guatemalan churrería, I got the cravings for a cinnamon-covered bag of churros, would you like an order too? If you don’t have a sweet tooth, you can always have plataninas, poporopos, chicharrines, and anillos frescos y calientes; your choice.
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!
Ferris wheels are another element of the Guatemalan fair. There is at least one Ferris wheel, but more often two or three of different sizes. The Ferris wheel is known here by these names rueda de Chicago(Chicago Wheel), rueda de la fortuna (wheel of fortune) and vuelta al mundo (around the world). Fairs are made up by all kinds of ambulant stands. Fairs are like accordions, they grow or shrink depending of the size of the community or town. All these photos belong to the San Pedro Las Huertas, a small village just outside and belonging to La Antigua Guatemala. At the end of July, La Antigua Guatemala will have its massive fair in honor of Saint James or Santiago.
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.