Celebrating Guatemala’s Independence Day in Panajachel, Guatemala

Last weekend author Daphne celebrated Guatemala’s Independence Day in Panajachel! On 15 September 1821, Guatemala City proclaimed independence from Spain. Year after year, the independence is widely celebrated with prideful festivities and traditions. In this post, she will tell you everything about the Guatemala Independence Day traditions, activities, and atmosphere!

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Atmosphere during Independence Day in Guatemala

The week before Independence Day in Guatemala, you see the cities and villages slightly change in the blue and white colors of Guatemala. At every street corner or Tienda, you will notice the national flags and other national paraphernalia. You also hear the drums more regularly played and see here and there more food stalls. I was impressed and humbled to see all of this going on!

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Like all parties in Guatemala, Independence Day has piñatas, wonderful food, and family activities. Vendors come from all over lake Atitlan to sell tortillas, tacos, tostadas, empanadas, pizza, churros, and more. On the streets, you will find football tables and computer games for the kids. The town truly transforms to one big festivity.

Main tradition of Independence Day in Guatemala

During the week before Independence Day, several parades and activities are going on, but the main tradition and activity of Guatemala’s Independence Day is the night before the historic day itself (14 September). This tradition is called the “Antorcha de la Independencia” and is a marathon where torch bearers run through the streets, from town to town, passing on the torch to several ecstatic torch bearers along the way. This tradition is in honor of independence hero María Dolores Bedoya.  She ran through the streets of Guatemala carrying a lantern as a symbol of hope for Guatemala’s future. Nowadays, the torch travels throughout Guatemala as a representation of the freedom and independence of the Guatemalan peoples.

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In Panajachel, the torch bearers who started their run in Guatemala City, are welcomed back in their village at midnight. They are welcomed by loud music, fireworks, the queens of Panajachel, and most important, a huge crowd that claps, whistle, and wave to the torch runners. On the way to Panajachel, bystanders also continuously wave and whistle, and drivers honk horns as torch runners pass by. It is a crazy, but cozy atmosphere!

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Activities during Independence Day in Guatemala

During the week before Independence Day, several parades and activities are going on, but the main parade is on Guatemala’s Independence Day itself, the 15th of September. The parade starts around 09:00 and takes about 3 hours. For schoolchildren and students who have been practicing for more than a month, it’s their time to shine. All schoolchildren and students from Panajachel and many musicians who are playing a variety of drums and brass instruments, march in colorful uniforms through the streets. It is a delight to see! Other activities throughout the week include speeches by officials, concerts performed by municipal bands, more food, and the obligatory fireworks displays.

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For me it was a great pleasure to join the celebration of Independence Day of Guatemala in Panajachel. Feliz 15 de Septiembre a todos!

Have you celebrated Independence Day in Guatemala or do you like to receive more details or tips? Let me know in the comment section below.

Author: Daphne

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