The last time I was in San Juan I described it as muy tranquilo. But as we arrived here yesterday afternoon during the pueblo’s feria – the street festival held each year by Guatemalan towns in honor of their patron saints – the pueblo was anything but quiet. The streets were lined with vendors – food vendors selling freshly grilled ears of elote (corn with salt and lime), hot dogs, tacos, sweet, caramelized fried bananas, cotton candy, and Chomino’s (get it?) pizza. Impromptu carnival games are set up everywhere, many of which are familiar from the Maryland county fairs I used to go to growing up, but many of which are new for me. At least three ferris wheels are set up – the smallest of which is run manually, with the attendant pushing the wheel around with his hand. Bo and I decided to pay 10Q to ride the biggest ferris wheel – how scary could it be, with hordes of young Guatemalan couples, small children, and families in line ahead of us? Let’s just say that in my month in Guatemala so far, it was one of the scariest experiences I’ve had so far. Those of you at home know that I’m not a roller coaster person, or any sort of thrill ride person, but who would have thought that a simple carnival ferris wheel could go so fast… Luckily, it was only a short ride and the views of the lake and mountains from the top were well worth it.
It was amazing to see the entire community come out – kids, couples, families, the elderly, tourists – all dressed in their finest traje in celebration. A concert by an “international” band blasted from the municipal gym (so-called “international” because they once played in Texas) and firecrackers were set off from every street corner. But despite the crowds and the noise, somehow the town managed to maintain its respectful, tranquilo vibes. Though there were definitely some cantinas open, I don’t think I saw even one visibly drunk person in the town, and despite all the craziness, the whole celebration had such a simple, family atmosphere.
For lots of pictures from the day/night’s festivities, check out my gallery below – click on any picture to see the slideshow!