September 2005 Issue: Where Can I Get a Hot Dog on a Stick in this Town?
September means one thing in Quetzaltenango: The Fair. Or, if you prefer, La Feria Internacional de Independencia. The first fair was held back in 1884 in Cantón San Nicolás. Since then it’s jumped around a bit, but in 1984, to celebrate the centenary, the Centro de Feria y Mercadeo de Quetzaltenango (CEFEMERQ) was constructed and the fair found its home.
Early Ferias were civilized affairs, with “social dances”, horse races, beauty queens and traditional games like “el palo encebado” (climbing a greased pole), “la tamba del Diablo” (balancing on ropes), sack races and “los coches encebados” (grabbing a greased pig ).
Another feature was the parade through the city, with groups of different professions (carpenters, tailors, shoemakers, etc) represented and, of course, the beauty queens. This year the parade starts at Parque Benito Juarez at 8am and goes out to fairgrounds on the 15th of September, the principal day of the fair.
The tradition of the beauty queens has survived and grown, and this year they will elect little Miss Maya, little Miss Quetzaltenango, Miss Maya, Miss Quetzaltenango, Miss Municipal Employee and Miss Sports, amongst others.
Out at the fairgrounds, the action goes from morning ‘til midnight, from the 12th to the 18th of September. The crowds can be insane, particularly on the 15th. Watch for pickpockets.
There are rides, games, random concerts (we tried to pin down a timetable, honest), food stalls (traditional and junk), handicrafts and an exhibition hall.
One very special feature of the fair is the free concert on the 14th of the month, with bands playing everything from marimba to rock. The fun goes well into the wee hours, or until everybody goes home. During the concert, at midnight, the Mayor gives the “grito de independencia” (the independence shout – not to be confused with the “grito ranchero” or cowboy shout, which you can hear in any cantina, day or night) and church bells all over the city are rung.
CEFEMERQ is located outside of town, past Trigales on the Periférico. The Municipality will provide transport in buses from Parque Benito Juarez, near La Democracia market, on the days of the Feria.
See you there!
*Special thanks to Senor Victor Salvador de León Toledo for his help with this article.