September the 15th

Guatemala gained independence from the Spanish Crown on September 15, 1821. That’s what all Guatemalan children learn at school, they won’t get the explanation of how it was a smart move – that didn’t benefit all people – to strengthen the wealth of the rulers of the time; that’ s far too deep, too mundane. The message they will get, however, is that on that day – drum roll – there’s a holiday! There must be a holiday, it’s the day the country obtained freedom. Following our famous tendency to maximize the opportunities of these days off (no school for children and a break from work for adults), on the 15th we go outside and enjoy the activities that have been prepared, or we stay home.

One of the traditions of excellence is the bandas de guerra (the term used to describe school bands), annoying to many, fascinating for others. Weeks before, we hear students from different schools or colleges, going over –and over again – the melodies they will perform for events held by their establishments: small parades and competitions. Hours in the sun, with drums and other instruments, rehearsing classical melodies, and why not? integrating folk songs into the repertoire. All of which will give them the satisfaction of being able to be seen and applauded. It is at this point that I should apologize to many visitors and I am sure many Antigüeños, since, in some cases, the sound of these bands can be annoying. However, it is part of the lighthearted chapín (slang for Guatemalan) folklore.

During each show, all over the country, there will also be abanderados (honor students). It’s a tradition of ours to recognize the efforts of those students who have the best scores for each school and the 15th of September is the ideal opportunity to do so. So, those selected are present, carrying a banner around their torso to indicate their achievement, and of course, they are also awarded the honor of carrying the school flag and the national flag.

Everywhere we hear our wonderful national anthem, written by Cuban poet José Joaquín Palma, who only confessed to writing it before his death in 1911. Recently, it was discovered that a small town in Colombia called San Eduardo copied most of the verses of our anthem and made it their own.

This is the also the month we remember our national flower, la Monja Blanca (the white nun, scientific name Lycaste virginalis). I’ m sure you have seen it on Guatemala’s 50 cent coin. We also honor our national tree, La Ceiba, which you might have seen on your way to Escuintla or Petén.What I know for sure is that you can’ t ignore the excitement with which we celebrate and enjoy national holidays, so join the celebration; you know what they say, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join‘em!”

Written by: #QuéPasa#Magazine#Revista

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