Celebrate Carnaval in true chapin style!
By Diana Pastor
In Guatemala, prior to Ash Wednesday (which always falls on different dates and this year will be on the 10th of February) La Carnaval is celebrated. Although it is not as popular it was some years ago, school children and young adults still celebrate the day with costumes, confetti-filled egg shells (which I must advise that you buy!), and food. In Guatemala, the best place to celebrate Carnival is Mazatenango, in the department of Suchitepequez, a town located about 2 hours away from Xela on the southern coast of Guatemala.
The fair in “Mazate” (as it is commonly referred to) is packed full of fun things to do, with a grand parade, a carnival with lots of rides and food vendors, and of course… plenty of dancing. Because Mazatenango is stinking hot, people sometimes throw water on one another while dancing and partying in the street. You can reach Mazate by taking a chicken bus from the bus terminal in Quetzaltenango or stop interurban buses of the 19 Avenue in Zone 3. The buses run frequently and the fare is about 20 to 25 quetzales.
If what you’re looking to do is stay in Xela and see how carnival is celebrated here, never fear! There is plenty of buzz around town, and several clubs that have special parties on this date (see the Events section in this issue to find out where the different events will be!) There is generally a big community gathering at El Calvario park near the cemetery, which is about a 5-minute walk from Parque Central. Children, youth and adults gather in Calvario to celebrate Carnival in all its glory, breaking eggshells everywhere, including bopping one another on the head with said eggs as friendly, confetti-filled way to say happy Carnival!
Another thing to enjoy watching (and hopefully not experience) is the tradition of throwing flour at one another. For those who really want to do some damage, the use of real eggs has been seen as a substitution for the confetti-filled eggs, and when an egg-soaked head mixes with a sack of flying flour… well, you get the idea. It can certainly be a fun experience, but can make washing your hair rather difficult.
For you extranjeros who work with children, we here at Xelawho suggest that you do something special to celebrate Carnival. Whether it’s a bazaar fundraiser or another fun activity, at the end of the day, the important thing is to enjoy this day. Whilst we can’t promise a party as large as the Rio de Janeiro Carnival, we can guarantee that you’ll have a blast!