This year, there will be no better way to celebrate Latin American history than attending the Guatemalan independence day celebration on September 15. As locals honor the 190th anniversary of their separation from Spanish rule, visitors can expect to encounter patriotic festivities that last all day and night.
Prior to Guatemala’s 1821 independence from Spain, the nation had a long history of European rule. In the 16th century, Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortes gave Captain Pedro de Alvarado permission to conquer the region that is now Guatemala. After turning various groups of local natives against each other, Alvarado was able to succeed in bringing Spanish control to the area. Then, during the colonial period, Guatemala became a captaincy general of Spain and part of New Spain, a territory that would later become modern-day Mexico. During this era, the nation extended from southern Mexico to Costa Rica. However, since the area did not contain gold or other valuable exports, it was not one of Spain’s top priorities. Perhaps for that reason, when Guatemala announced that it was no longer under Spanish rule on September 15, 1821, there was surprisingly little violence and bloodshed.
Now, every year on September 15, Guatemalans celebrate their country on Independence Day. Before the event, many public schools, buildings and buses are elaborately decorated with the country’s flag and other patriotic images. Then, when the day of the festivities arrive, one of the highlights is a massive parade, which includes members of the Guatemalan army, school children playing instruments in their matching uniforms and people waving batons. Overhead, there is normally an air show, while locals shoot off fireworks into the sky. Along the sidewalks, visitors can find plenty of people selling hot food, including fresh tortillas filled with chicken, beans and rice.
When the sun goes down, locals send flickering “globos” into the sky. These are spheres made with colored tissue paper. They have a cotton wick at their bases, which makes them rise into the sky when they are released. As the small floating lanterns are sent into the night sky, they create a beautiful scene for everyone watching below.
Visitors who decide to attend this festive celebration should bring a camera, as the groups of locals in their pristine uniforms alongside the city’s old Spanish-inspired buildings will create breathtaking photos. Many people who attend also bring a small Guatemalan flag to wave from the sidewalks. However, plenty of street vendors will sell them at the parade if guests forget to pack this patriotic item.