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Fiestas of Guatemala

Here you will find the most complete list of Guatemalan fiestas anywhere on the web. Over 370 fiestas are listed in each of two lists. One list is organized by department and town. The second list is organized by date. If you want to know what is going on this weekend or need to make plans to visit a fiesta then this list is for you.

Here you will also find general information about the fiestas of Guatemala as well as the most complete list of more than sixty traditional dances you will see plus a religious holiday date calculator to find the dates of those fiestas which occur on movable religious holidays. It is all here!

Listed by Department / Por Departamento


Listed by Date / Por Fecha


General Holidays

Certain national holidays and special days are celebrated in all parts of Guatemala. Such holidays include:
Jan 1 - New Years Day Dec 7 - Quema del Diablo (The Burning of the Devil)
Mar/Apr - Holy Thursday / Friday / Easter Week Dec 24/25 - Christmas Eve/Day
Sep 15 - Independence Day Dec 31 - New Years Eve
Nov 1 - All Saints Day

 

Things to know about fiestas:

El Boj - Most fiestas are powered by liberal consumption of alcohol, mainly boj (also known as guaro or venado). Guaro is "white lightning" and is made from fermented and distilled sugar cane. Its quality varies greatly with the better brands being quite agreeable but invariably strong. It consumed straight from the bottle or mixed with anything available. Like vodka, it mixes well with anything.

Saq ik - Is a traditional ceremonial meal served at many fiestas. Sak ik is a type of turkey served in a white sauce.

Music - It is very common to find the national instrument, the marimba at fiestas. Marimbas vary greatly in size from smaller ones played by one or two players up to enormous instruments played by 6 or 8 players. You may also see harps, drums of various type and the chirimia.

Fireworks - Every fiesta, procession, or celebration of any kind in Guatemala involves fireworks. Strings of firecrackers are a constant backdrop to all celebrations. Giant strings up to 20 feet long can be had in most stores and at the critical moments during celebrations, the fireworks unleashed can be most impressive (or frightening, depending on one's point of view). Fiestas often include "toritos" which are men who don a cage equipped with a massive amount of fireworks which are set off while the "torito" charges the crowd - a practice that is quite exciting and not a little dangerous. These are not "safe and sane" fireworks. Be careful! (The large bombs solds at fireworks kiosks are not toys! They contain 1 to 2 ounces of perchlorate explosive and they will blow your hand off. Such injuries are not unusual.)

Cofradias - This is a tradition which is a melding of ancient Mayan religious practices and Catholicism. Many towns have associated religious icons usually representing saints. These icons are cared for by a group of men (or women), a cofradia, elected annually by the town's people. During fiestas, the cofradia solemnly marches the religious icon through the streets in a parade, sometime with a barrage of firecrackers paving the way in order to frighten away evil spirits.

 

Traditional Dances

All traditional fiestas include folk dancing whose forms date back hundreds of years to the conquest and beyond. Some of these dances are rooted in traditions brought from Spain (which include Moorish and Iberian influences) others are rooted in Mayan tradition, still others have African roots. Dances you might see include:

"Botargel" (Variation of "Moros y Cristianos")

"De Animalitos: El Tauro" (Animals, The Bull)

"De Cortez" (About Cortez)

"De Disfraces" or "De Gracejos" or "Los Enmascarados" or "Los Feos" (Costumes, Masquerade or Masks)

"De Toritos" (The Little Bulls)

"El Aba-i" (Garífuna)

"El Africano" (The African)

"El Aru Majani" (Garífuna)

"El Costeño"

"El Chico Mudo" (The Mute Boy)

"El Chip Chip" (Garífuna)

"El Convite" or "Convites"

"El Gunjae" (Garífuna)

"El Jungujugu" (Garífuna) – This dance accompanied by drums and cymbals is rooted in Haitian Voodoo which the Garífuna call Chugú.

"El Mahani" (Garífuna)

"El Negro" or "Los Negritos" (The Blacks)

"El Palo Volador" (The Flying Pole)

"El Rey Fernando" (King Fernando)

"El Sambai" (Garífuna)

"El Venado" (The Deer)

"El Yancunú" (Garífuna) – Is a dance about war with men wearing masks of women’s faces. This dance commemorates a battle which took place on Roatán during the 17th century.

"Fierabrás" (Variation of "Moros y Cristianos")

"Gigantes" (The Giants) – This dance honors the major Mayan deities.

"Granada"

"Ixcampores"

"La Conquista" (The Conquest) – Commemorates the conquest of the Indians by the Spanish and recalls the horrors perpetrated on them by Pedro de Alvarado. Other characters include the Quiché King Tecún Umán and his sons and daughters.

"La Invasión Extranjera" (The Foreign Invasion)

"La Malincia" or "La Malinche"

"La Paach" – This dance is dedicated to the rituals of the "cult of maize" and is a harvest dance. Among other things, it illustrates the belief that finding double or triple ears of corn is a sign of good luck, like a 4-leaf clover.

"La Punta" (Garífuna) – This dance invented by the Garífuna is by far the most popular and is danced at festivals and in discos throughout the western Caribbean. Punta is a strenuous dance performed on the balls of the feet but with practice it can be danced for hours.

"La Región de los 24 Diablos" (The Land of the 24 Devils)

"La Serpiente" or "La Sierpe" or "La Culebra" (The Snake)

"La Shumba" (Garífuna)

"La Vaca Mora" (a variation of "De Toritos")

"Las Siete Virtudes" (The Seven Virtues)

"Los 12 Pares de Francia" (The twelve couples from France) – This dance is a major production lasting up to 5 hours. The major characters are Charlemagne and a Moorish King. The production is very dramatic with battles, deaths and imprisonments.

"Los Abuelos" (The Grandparents)

"Los Animalitos" (The Little Animals)

"Los Cuatro Toros" (The Four Bulls)

"Los Curunes"

"Los Diablos" (The Devils)

"Los Huehuechos"

"Los Moros y La Conquista" (The Moors and the conquest)

"Los Judios" (The Jews)

"Los Mazates"

"Los Mexicanos" (The Mexicans) – Dance based on "De Toritos" covering the Mexican influence in Guatemala.

"Los Partideños"

"Los Tinacos"

"Los Tres Venados" (The Three Deer)

"Los Tucunes" (a variation of "Los Venados")

"Los Venados" (The Deer)

"Las Flores" (The Flowers)

"Maipoll" (Garífuna Maypole Dance, no longer performed)

"Moros y Cristianos" – One of the most common traditional dances, performed in several forms and under several names. It commemorates the triumph of the Castillians over the Moors in 1462 when they finally expelled the Arabs from Iberia. This dance has special significance for the Indians because they would like to have done the same to the Spanish invaders of Central America and imagine the dance as if it were called "The Spaniards and the Indians".

"Napoleón"

"Paach" Is a dance about corn (maize)

"Pororó" (Garífuna dance no longer performed)

"Rabinal Achí",

"Rey Azarín",

"Rey David" (King David)

"Santa Catarina",

"Tantuques",

"Tope de Mayo" (Indian Maypole Dance),

"Tum Salajché"

Surely, the most spectacular of the dances is the Palo Volador in which men (usually fortified by plenty of alcohol) climb a 100 foot wooden pole, tie themselves to a rope attached to the top and wrapped around their body; Then they jump, spinning to the ground...sometimes to their death.

Copyright © 2000-2008 Phillip C. Landmeier


 March 28, 2008

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