I love Guatemala celebrations because they’re fun for the family, as opposed to Holy Week celebrations, where the sheer crush of people – and pickpockets – can make the experience uncomfortable at best. Patron Saint festivals, or patronales as they’re called here, are mostly attended by the locals, giving it a different feel than tourist-attended celebrations.
Antigua Guatemala Celebrations
Last July 25th was Antigua’s turn to honor its own Patron Saint, San Santiago, or Saint James. The family and I found the event to be entertaining and laid back, which allowed for great picture-taking opportunities. Below are some of the pictures I was able to capture at the event.
Did you know Antigua has a “town crier“?
A festival is never complete here unless it involves a procession of some sort…
..same goes for Marimba, Guatemala’s national instrument.
A popular feature of Antigua’s festival is the greased pole climb.
The pole was easily 30 feet tall.
The local Boy Scouts were the first to check it out.
No one would dare be first until a local Boy Scout decided to give it a shot.
He stripped off his uniform, tied himself to the pole with his belt…
But I don’t think he got even three feet of the ground. You see, the trick is to strip off as much sebo – grease – off the pole as one can.
The first one to try never makes it. I hope he got a patch for effort for soiling himself like that. His mamma ain’t gonna be happy.
Since nobody else was willing to try, we went for a walk and some more pics.
When we returned, we found a large crowd assembled around the pole.
That’s because the prize for capturing the flag at the top of the pole was a cool Q500 ($62.50).
What appeared to be homeless people were all over it, to the delight and laughter of the crowd.
Eventually, what appeared to be some young, foreign tourists, joined in the effort.
At one point, the Asian guy below reached the highest anyone had so far,
which brought huge cheers from the crowd.
I overheard an enthusiastic man remark “Necesitamos mas Chinos!” (We need more Chinese!). Of course, in Latin America, anyone that looks remotely Asian is thought to be Chinese.
El Chino promptly tumbled – unharmed – after that.
With the help of some more foreign students – one looked like a tackle from Nebraska University, the efforts got the top man closer and closer to the flag, as each later attempt further stripped more grease off the pole. This is as close as they got while I was there.
By now, the prize had climbed to Q700 ($87.50). Heck, I was starting to consider joining in then. But by then, it was getting late and we had to head home, missing out on the concert that was going to be held by Parque Central that night.
That’s what I love about slow travel. You never know what you’re going to see.