Ever since I arrived in Panajachel, Guatemala, two months ago, I’ve been hearing about the famous town feria in Panajachel. Wondering how this feria would be and what people actually commemorate during this special event, I decided to write this article for you, introducing you to Panajachel’s feria history, atmosphere, and activities!
History of town feria in Panajachel
As Catholicism began to merge with the Maya culture and religion, many of the towns in Guatemala were renamed after a different Saint. Panajachel became ‘San Francisco de Panajachel’ and Saint Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of Pana.
Over 300 towns have ‘ferias’ or festivals to celebrate the Saint who watches over their town. Ferias may last a few days or a couple of weeks, depending on the town. Besides Christmas and Holy Week festivities, Feria is the biggest celebration of the year. It is the time for the community to proudly celebrate the town existence and to remember its rich history.
Atmosphere of town feria in Panajachel
Ever since I arrived in Pana two months ago, I’ve been hearing about the famous feria. Finally, the moment was there and I could explore the feria myself. The week before town feria in Panajachel, you see the center of Panajachel slightly change in different colors and notice more street vendors than normal. You also hear the bombas (the fireworks that don’t produce any light, but mostly just loud explosions) more regularly. I was impressed and humbled to see and hear all of this going on!
During town feria in Panajachel, typically calm streets began to bustle with people and I wondered where they were all coming from! Apparently, people travel from different towns, to join in the celebrations, since Pana is a relatively large town for the region. Especially on the 4th of October it is extremely crowded.
Activities and festivities during town feria in Panajachel
Some of the festivities in Panajachel’s feria include parade processions of the statues of Saint Francis of Assisi and his helper saints. Most of these processions, along with folkloric dances, concerts, performances, and other religious ceremonies are held in the plaza (square) directly in front of the Catholic church, the church of Saint Francis of Assisi.
Along with the religious aspect, there are many other activities to celebrate during the festival. There are parades, rides, arcade games, football tables, bingo, Ferris wheels, fireworks, sporting events, dances, parties, and street vendors come from all over lake Atitlan to line up selling bargain clothes, shoes, Jewellery, toys, food, and traditional snacks. I enjoyed some churros for Q10, popcorn for Q5, and a strawberry smoothie for Q10.Kids have off almost the entire week of school, so they can enjoy the fair and represent their school in the parades. Everyone is out on the town for the holiday and enjoying the traditional cumbia bands performing in the main plaza in front of the church.
At night, the plaza becomes bomba central. Like said before, most of the bombas don’t produce any light, but just loud explosions. Be prepared to get scared stiff! The week before town feria Panajachel, these bombas will be going off regularly and will mainly continue until 4 a.m. the night of Feria itself. I sometimes had the feeling I was living in a war zone area.
Overview of all town ferias around lake Atitlan
San Pablo la Laguna: 25 January, San Pablo Apóstol
San José Chacayá: 19 March, Patriarca San José Obrero
San Marcos la Laguna: 25 April, San Marcos Evangelista
Santa Cruz la Laguna: 10 May, Santa Elena de La Cruz
San Antonio Palopó: 13 June, San Antonio de Padua
San Juan la Laguna: 24 June, San Juan Bautista
San Pedro la Laguna: 29 June, San Pedro Apóstol
Santa María Visitación: 2 July, Visitación de María
Santiago Atitlán: 25 July, Santiago Apóstol
Santa Clara la Laguna: 12 August, Santa Clara de Asís
Sololá: 15 August, Virgen de la Asunción
Panajachel: 4 October, San Francisco de Asís
San Lucas Tolimán: 18 October, San Lucas Evangelista
San Andrés Semetabaj: 13 November, San Andrés Apóstol
Nahualá: 25 November, Santa Crina de Alejandría
Santa Catarina Ixtahuatán: 25 November, Santa Catarina de Alejandría
Santa Catarina Palopó: 25 November, Santa Catarina de Alejandría
Concepción: 8 December, Virgen de la Inmaculada Concepción
Santa Lucía Utatlán: 13 December, Santa Lucía
For me it was a great pleasure to join the celebration of town feria Panajachel. Have you celebrated town feria in Panajachel, Guatemala or do you like to receive more details or tips? Let me know in the comment section below.