September 14, 2004

It's Independence Day!!!

September 15 is Independence Day in Guatemala, celebrating the independence of the countries of Central America from Spain! I’d like to thank my friend Traci K for writing the caption below about how the holiday is celebrated. Because she had such a difficult time finding information on how the holiday came to be, I asked a friend and comrade in Guatemala to explain it to me. He said that it came to be more through political means than through a war. Imagine that, political changes can happen without violence!!!! While there had been some uprisings and strikes against Spanish rule, they mostly only impacted the indigenous people. The real independence apparently came because the sons of the colonial Spaniards, the Españoles, born in Central America did not have the same legal rights as the people born in Spain. As a result, they opted to declare their independence from Spain. Spain did not pay much attention to their growing movement and basically let the small countries go on their merry way. At that time, Mexico annexed most of the Central American countries and a Civil War did ensue for fifteen years. Guatemala ultimately gained its sovereignty, though it did not gain all of its traditional territorial space in areas like Chiapas. If anyone can add to this or correct it, please do.

Traci's piece to the puzzle:

I have been thinking about how to celebrate Guatemalan Independence Day with our kids. We were hoping to go to the Independence Day celebration being sponsored by the Guatemalan Consulate, but unfortunately it was canceled. So I decided to search the web to see what I could find about Independence Day and was surprised at how little I found on either English or Spanish websites. I did find a little about the history of why the celebration is on September 15th and about how it is celebrated in Guatemala.

Someday I hope to experience Independence Day in Guatemala with our niños. In the mean time I will share with them what I have learned, I hope you find this information interesting as well. On September 15, 1821 Guatemala gained its Independence from Spain. This Independence Day is shared with all the other Central American countries except for Panama and Belize. Following this, Guatemala was briefly part of Mexico and then later became a part of the United Provinces of Central America. This confederation fell apart due to a war between the members that occurred from 1838 to 1840. At the end of the war Guatemala became an independent nation.

Independence Day is not a tourism draw and is not celebrated much outside of the country (like Cinco de Mayo) but is a local Guatemalan celebration. Since it is a national holiday many Guatemalans take the opportunity to travel to the more traditional tourist areas to watch celebrations. On the day preceding Independence Day the national anthem is sung with gusto in schools. The Schools, and even the school buses, are decorated with patriotic motifs in celebration. Traditionally the army of Guatemala celebrates with a protocol act and air acrobatics, usually for the audience of the President. As the day comes to a close children and adults can be seen waving small plastic Guatemalan flags in the streets and the stores are decked out in Blue and White decorations.

While Guatemala is celebrating so are the other countries of Central America. Since they all achieved independence together they also have ways of celebrating together, though many celebrate on both the 14th and the 15th. A torch, which begins in Guatemala on the 14th, travels by relay race down the Pan American Highway to Costa Rica where it arrives on the 15th. Along the route people decorate homes and schools. Children dress up in their finest school uniforms and cheer along with the adults as the runners and the torch goes by. It is a great honor to be chosen to be a runner of the Independence Day torch. As runners cross between countries borders there are cultural ceremonies with dignitaries of all the Central American countries there to honor Independence Day.

Posted by Kevin at September 14, 2004 08:53 PM

Thank you Kevin and Traci! As always this site is such a good resource for information. I too want to share the Guatemalan holidays and history with my children. Thanks again!

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