Monday, January 26, 2009

A town covered in people

This past weekend was a whir of activity as the rest country, or so it seemed, poured into San Andreas Itzapa. The reason? The Virgin Mary. Every year Itzapa hosts the annual festival to celebrate the Virgin, and it just so happened to be my first weekend here.

Everywhere you looked there were vendors selling variations on the same few food items. To a lesser extent people brought crafts to sell, though they were pretty overwhelmed by thousands of rumbling bellies. I ventured to try some of the street food, despite warnings against it. I had some great breads, some of which were dunked in what tasted like honey tea. There were dried plantains, french fries, soft tacos, some sort of kielbasa with several sauces on a hot dog bun. There was also plenty of ice cream and toffees and dried fruit. Mmmmmmm.

I´m not sure what its called but it was pretty good and very difficult to eat. The ladies who sat next to me were trying very hard not to laugh as huge chunks of it fell unceremoniously onto my lap. One of them even produced a spoon for me to use.

The festival was akin to something i experienced at college called "hot dog day." Though the official celebration occured only between two days, the fireworks started much sooner (and are still going). The first really big day was Saturday, when the parade began.

Though dotted with some religious displays, the parade was, to a large extent, not exactly religiously themed- as you´ll see in some of the pictures of dancing teeth, creepy women, and phantoms of the opera.

Just about every troupe in the parade had their own sounds system, and in some cases live bands, which made for a very very noisy town full of competing sounds.

Some of the sound systems were a little more extreme than others. Tied to the machismo no doubt.

What was most interesting about the parade was that it was more like a processional. Even though the performers didn´t appear to be changing there routines at all, everyone kept a few steps ahead of them to watch as they traveresed just about every street and side street in town. People, and kids in particular, crammed onto every surface they could to get a glimpse of the excitement. A large part of the excitement, it seemed, was just the process of following the parade. (This was a fascinating difference in culture to observe- Americans adults would only need to see it once, to watch it again would be a waste of time)

*Note the kids up in the bell tower

And here are a couple of the floats pre-parade

A pig. Maybe.

And us, sharing a tub of ice cream. From left to right: Beth, Anna Lisa, me, Josh and Heather. It seems our photographer didn´t notice Will and Nina. Oh, and looking now, im digging the kid flexing right above my head. Will wanted to get a picture of my flip flops being shoe-shined, and the little guy above me (and all of his friends) was very excited to do so, they called out "muestra muestra!" Which i think means, "show, show!"

We looked around the town center for the flower from the night before, but it was nowhere to be found. Someone thought it was scheduled for Day 2, but we found out later that it happened that day and we all somehow missed it. And Day 2... well, day 2 really deserves its own post.

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