Dust off your cowboy boots, people: it’s Fair time again in Xela. If you want to get technical about it, we’re talking about La Feria Internacional de Independencia. It’s when Guatemalans really show how they can put on a party.
First held back in 1884 in the Canton San Nicolas, the fair has had various homes over the years, but in 1984, to celebrate its centenary, the fairgrounds—CEFEMERQ—were constructed just out of town, and it’s been held there ever since.
The general tone has changed, too. Way back when, there were traditional games like chasing greased pigs (los coches encebados), balancing on ropes (la tamba del Diablo) and climbing greased poles (el palo encebado), along with parades through the city, social dances, horse races and beauty pageants.
That last part has survived, and grown. This year just some of the titles being contested are: Little Miss Quetzaltenango, Little Miss Maya, Miss Quetzaltenango, Miss Maya, Miss Indigenous, Miss Sports, and our favorites: Miss Municipal Employee and Miss Female Prisoner.
Out at the fairgrounds, the entertainment has become earthier too. You can expect the same sort of shooting gallery, sideshow games that are found all over the world, alongside food stalls (traditional and junk), rides, random concerts and the scariest Ferris Wheel you’re ever likely to ride.
The action goes from morning to midnight, from the 12th to the 16th, with crowds getting craziest on the main day, the 15th.
If you’re planning on hitting the fairgrounds (and we strongly recommend it) bear this in mind: every pickpocket and bagslasher in the country will also be there. Don’t panic, but don’t take Absolutely Everything, either.
One feature of the week is the free concert held on Independence Eve, the 14th, with bands playing everything from Marimba to Rock. At midnight the mayor gives a long-ass speech known as the “grito de independencia”—independence shout—(which is not nearly as entertaining as a grito ranchero but then you can’t have everything), church bells are rung all over town and then the fun starts up again. On that night, bars can also remain open all night long.
CEFEMERQ is located just out of town, past Trigales on the Pereferico. The Municipality will be providing transport from near the Parque Benito Juarez on the days of the Feria. See you there!