Accidentally attending Guatemalan Independence Day

Independence Day Guatemala City

Last month on the 14th of September we noticed something funny happening on the streets as our taxi driver drove us from our InterContinental where we’d reserved a week on PointBreaks to the old part of the city a few miles away.  A crowd of people were jogging alongside the road, a few of them carrying torches as they ran.

It was the eve of Independence Day, the taxi driver explained.  And this jaunt around the city was one of the ways people celebrated.

Once we got downtown, the town square had come alive, despite the threat of approaching rain.  Street venders lined the streets with colorful local foods.  Children gnawed on corn cobs, drizzled in sauces I hoped dearly were not ketchup and mayonnaise, though they looked like just that.  We did not follow the “when in Rome” philosophy with that particular dish…

Guatemalan Independence


Guatemalan Independence Day

Independence Day Guatemala City

At some point the bustle of people on the street was replaced with the organized commotion of marching bands.  One after the other.

This was also when it started pouring rain.

We ducked under a food cart’s tent, purchased some hot drinks and watched the bands make their way down the street, drenched in rain.

At first I thought they looked miserable, just standing there in the rain while a single drummer tapped a cadence.

Until they started to play.

Guatemalan Independence day marching band

It was incredible.  I mean, it’s not that the performance itself was the most musically accomplished thing I’d ever heard.  But the sudden shift in enthusiasm when their routine began was almost like magic.

They looked so proud.  Like persisting through the rain was their truest, most valiant display of devotion for their country.  These soaking wet high school trumpet players, drummers and baton twirlers wore their toughest, most stoic expressions.

I know it may sound goofy but I was mesmerized.

It was the highlight of the evening’s celebrations, perhaps because I don’t know Spanish and couldn’t understand the program going on in front of the palace in the Central Plaza.  I barely even caught the introduction of the president and his wife.

But the determination of a high school student doing that extra curricular thing they do with utmost pride…I can definitely understand that.

Guatemala City central plaza

The evening’s program in front of the palace building was a very long one, but not necessarily an eventful one.  There was an interpretive dance kind of piece as well as more marching band music, and lots of talking.  By the time we finally headed back towards the hotel, there were still groups of people running with torches.

Over all it was really a neat experience.

It’s always a good thing when you accidentally arrive somewhere in the midst of a local holiday.


2 Comments on “Accidentally attending Guatemalan Independence Day

  1. I’m sure it’s because we have a lot of people from Latin America here in Florida, but corn on the cob smothered in mayonnaise and dusted with paprika isn’t all that uncommon. I personally think it tastes gross (I don’t like mayonnaise in general), but it isn’t too uncommon ;-).

    Like I’ve mentioned before, unique and regional foods are my weak spot ;-p. I’m flying up to Colorado tomorrow for a few days, and have already planned out my foray into Rocky Mountain oysters.

    • OH man that is one area I have to sadly and shamefully admit I’m not too brave. I am not afraid of food in terms of getting sick. I’ll eat any street food. Any. Even the stuff served in the dirtiest alleys of China. But if it hits me as “not food” like bugs and chicken feet and stuff…then I’m a chicken about it sadly. I need to work on that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *