Happy Guatemalan Independence Day!
September 15th is Independence Day in Guatemala, marking the anniversary of Central America's political independence from Spain, a national holiday full of festivities and parades. It's been two years since the holiday has been celebrated in Guatemala due to COVID, so excitement this year is particularly high. This will also be the first school celebration for UPAVIM students after they returned to in-person learning just a few short months ago.
Independence Day is a holiday that is best celebrated in your own hometown, on foot, as it's a terrible idea to travel anywhere this day, as the roads and highways are taken over by caravans of students.
Students run along roads in groups representing their schools by carrying torches, making noise and blowing whistles, waving flags as they run in the famous "Antorchas". This tradition reenacts the part of the independence history where various horseback riders rode out to Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica to announce the news of independence to the region. This activity has become an important Independence Day tradition for schools in areas outside of city centers. Students will take turns running miles (usually with a car in tow to allow them to take turns) in order to arrive in the city and light their torches from the official "Partrimonial Fire"- which they will then take back to their home towns, triumphantly running back and making noise the same way they came. Depending on how far they have to travel, many students begin their race at the break of dawn and don't return home until evening.
It is a very big day in particular for schools and students, many of whom have spent months preparing activities for this day: School marching bands have spent months rehearsing their song and dance repertoires to compete in parades this day; Beauty pageants are very popular as this is the day that the elected "Queens", "Princesses", and "Flowers" of elementary schools, high schools, municipalities, and even companies have their day to shine as they ride in parade floats throughout the city. This is also a day for schools to focus much of their attention on national pride and on regional cultural differences.
And UPAVIM's Montessori school is no exception! UPAVIM students have been busy this month making altars for each of the different regions in Guatemala. These altars highlight the unique culture of each region, including traditional foods, clothing, history, and folklore. On September 15th, all of their hard work will culminate in a school-wide festival that will include the preparation and tasting of regional traditional foods, folkloric dance presentations, and a performance of rhythmic gymnastics. We are excited for UPAVIM students to share all their hard work and celebrate together, not just because it's Independence Day, but also because it's been 2-3 years since they've been able to learn together in the classroom and this type of activity has been sorely missed. We look forward to sharing more with you after the festivities!