November 2007: All Saints Day
Every November 1st, men in cowboy hats and striped red pants play the marimba while lookers-on sway to the rhythm of their ancestors. Members of cofraidas mutter prayers and burn scented offerings to the gods to watch over the souls of deceased children. All Saints Day, or Dia de Todos Santos, is part of the 10 day celebration beginning on October 21st and ending on November 2nd with All Souls Day. While the holiday is commemorated throughout Guatemala, no celebration rivals that of the dusty highland town with the same name: Todos Santos Cuchumatán.
And what better way to honor dead kids then to drink nothing but grain alcohol for 24 hours and then race horses? That’s right friends, the All Saints Day celebration in Todos Santos is capped by a spectacular drunken horse race. The goal? To stay on your horse as long as possible without passing out. And pass out they do. According to local legend, the death of a jinete, or drunken horseman, during the race is considered a sign that it will be a good year. So it’s like Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog’s Day, except the shadow involved is metaphorical and permanent.
Since we know that most of our readers don’t have access to elaborate, colorful costumes and barnyard animals (except for you, Lucas, and no we don’t judge) and are generally far too stoned to plan a trip in advance, we’ve hatched a foolproof plan to bring the festival to you. First, get trashed on Halloween with a group of friends, hostel mates or language school buddies. We’re fairly confident that most of you will do this anyway, so there’s no need to elaborate. When you awaken from your drunken stupor the following morning, drink a fifth of Quetzalteca in less than an hour. It’s not grain alcohol, but it will do the trick. Next, go to Minerva and get on a chicken bus. Bonus points if you don’t know the destination. The person who rides the bus the longest without throwing up wins. You may be asking yourself, “what, exactly, is the point of all this?” Clearly you haven’t been paying attention. It’s to honor deceased children. Obviously. And if you have no desire to do that – well – you better pray on All Souls Day because you’re probably going to hell.