So while all of you were donning costumes and gorging yourselves on delicious candy I was celebrating Día de Todos Santos (All Saints Day). Some of you may be thinking “Cool, sugar skulls!” (at least, that’s what I thought) Wrong. That’s Mexico. So what do the Chapines do? I’ll break it down for you in a few simple steps.
Step 1: Take the giant Virgin Mary altar from the church and walk around town with it. This will require at least eight men, because, like I said, it’s gigantic and doesn’t really seem like a thing that should necessarily be carried up and down the hilly, potholed roads. Make sure you don’t forget a bumping sound system carted around in a wheelbarrow, people with banners and an old lady to do prayers at each of the twenty houses around the pueblo you are supposed to stop at. There should also be hooligans lighting fireworks every few minutes. (Sorry, no pictures. I forgot my camera this particular night.)
Step 2: Head to the cemetery and honor the dead within your family by cleaning up/repainting/rebuilding their gravesites and decorating them with flowers/wreaths/all manner of plastic doodads. This should be a festive occasion with music, lots of socializing and plenty of food. Many enjoy the traditional dish Fiambre on this day. Fiambre is basically a giant salad with just about everything you can imagine piled on top (vegetables, meats, sausages, pickled things, egg, cheese…). Sadly, my host family passed on the Fiambre. We had snowcones instead.
Step 3: Spend the evening in the town square watching the Canchuleros. Canchuleros are wandering groups of men with masks on. They, along with a band, wander through the pueblo and dance in the streets. I should probably mention that most of them are in drag. (I didn’t really get an explanation of why this happens, but it’s fantastic.) Also, take this opportunity to pick up some delicious streetfood (the PC Medical Staff would kill me if they read this). I opted for the papitas (basically French fries drenched in ketchup and some sort of unidentifiable cream) but tacos, chicharrones, fried chicken and even pizza were also available.
Step 4: Fly a kite. In certain parts of Guatemala giant kites, some as big as houses, are an important part of Todos Santos. They are colorful masterpieces with messages written on them. As the kites are lifted up into the sky the words are said to be sent to the dead in heaven. We don’t have giant kites in my site, but I was still able to buy a small one for the occasion. My host brother and his friends were enlisted to help me get it flying. They quickly decided my 3Q kite was poorly constructed and decided to show me how you really build a kite. 1.50Q worth of tissue paper (which is, strangely, called China Paper here), some glue and a lot of hard work on the part of Jose later and we were airborne! And, yes, I did pick those Silverado High School colors.
And there you have it. Next year I hope to make it to a place actually called Todos Santos for Todos Santos. Their tradition is for the men to drink all night and then have a drunken horse race the next morning. Amazing.