The Celebrations of la Virgen del Rosario
By Diana Pastor
If you’re sad because the Independencia parties are over in party-capitol, Quetzaltenango, or if you couldn’t make it out, we have some good news for you. There are a bunch of festivals and holidays in Guatemala scattered through the last few months of each year, and here in Xela, we’re lucky enough to celebrate our patron saint’s day as well! The festivities in honor of the Virgen del Rosario, patron saint of the city of Quetzaltenango, kicked off on September 22 and continue through October.
This festival has its origins in the sixteenth century. There are written documents from 1547 that record the existence of a brotherhood who venerated the Virgin of the Rosary. In that time, parades were held in which church-goers carried a depiction of the Virgin of the Rosary through the streets of the colonial cemetery located around the convent of San Francisco (now an old mall where vendors sell artisan goods).
Tradition is very important for Catholic Quetzaltecos, and therefore there are several congregations which celebrate the Virgin. Last year, for example, through the trumpeting of school bands marching through the street, you could still hear firecrackers being set off by the Taxi Drivers Association of Xela’s Central Park. Siren sounds came from the Volunteer Firefighters and the Red Cross who joined the parade. The most important of the parade, though, is always the journey of the Virgin of the Rosary through the downtown streets. After the journey in the parade, she is taken to the cathedral in Xela’s Central Park to be placed on a high altar and worshipped and admired until the end of October.
Although the most special day for the celebration is on the 7th of October, every Saturday and Sunday of October there are different activities to celebrate the Virgin, such as food, religious services, games and other attractions all around Xela’s Central Park. Taking a walk through the street vendors, picking out seasonal specialties and trinkets, makes more a lovely Saturday afternoon. Make sure you pick up a fresh churro straight out of the fryer (just don’t be a chump and buy some squishy old churro that’s been sitting there since Central Park’s Easter celebrations).
Many church-goers not only enjoy the party, but also take the opportunity to thank the Virgin for miracles. For them, trusting in the power that the Virgin has and telling her their problems and afflictions helps them not only spiritually, but physically, as there are many who claim that they have asked the Virgin to cure their illnesses or their relatives’ diseases and she has done it.