Each Guatemalan town/city has an annual feria (fair) and each one features its own specialty. When I moved to my first (temporary) Guatemalan home during pre-service training, I arrived during their feria. It featured student musical bands from around that region. It was the best welcome I could have ever imagined.
After training I moved to the home where I now live, in the Guatemalan Western Highlands. I had heard about our city’s annual feria for months in advance. I grew in anticipation of seeing the “palo voladores” (pole flyers) for which this feria is known. I began to wonder if the feria could even live up to my excited imagination. It did!!! It was spectacular!!!
I loved exploring every day’s offerings with my camera. I gasped at least a few times every day. Out of the hundreds of photos that I took, I’ve selected some to share here with you, starting with the palo voladores (pole flyers)!
I was surprised to find that the palo voladores had no set public schedule. For the first three days I kept asking, desperately, when they would fly and I kept getting different answers, “in the morning,” “in the afternoon,” “today for sure but…who knows?” and in fact, all three answers were correct. But finally I managed to get there when they were flying and after that, I saw them many times more. Each time I watched, I felt as though I was sailing in the sky along with them.
Photo above: Folks watching the palo voladores from the steps of the cathedral.
When the two flyers begin their round-about descent on the ropes, the two at the top lay backwards and dangle leisurely. Sometimes they would lay on one of the four outer poles of the top structure, with their spines running alongside the poles, and nothing to tie them securely.
The young man above, had just finished his flight around the pole. A monkey mask is sometimes worn on the face. Once they finish their descent, they dance lightly around the pole, touching it to thank it and then they proceed to dance in a circle with other flyers in front of a man playing the marimba.
Above: They pay their respects to the marimba and the others in the circle. It’s all very subtle and easily missed if one does not look closely. By the way, there were marimba bands throughout the town!
Above: Three separate groups of costumed dancers made merry throughout the town, pretending to tease each other with grand gestures. One group looked sombreros, another group kind of looked like winged pirates and the third wore colorful feathers. Considering the heat, it was amazing that they could wear such heavy costumes all week long. I only saw one female that was part of the costumed pageantry and hers in the last photo in this row. I cannot seem to continue to add new text after that photo so I’ll have to add a Part II to this Feria 2017 post.