Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Emancipacion de la Patria

On September 15, 1821, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica declared their independence from Spain and joined the Mexican Empire. Just 2 years later the countries separated from Mexico to form a Republic of Central America, and when this didn’t work out, it wasn’t until November 15, 1838 that Honduras was finally and truly independent of all others. I guess Hondurans believed the break from Spain was the most important emancipation and thus, Sept 15th is the only “Independence” Day they celebrate.

And so it was a bright sunny Wednesday that my counterpart and I headed over to the central park for the festivities at 8 am. The park was jam packed with nearly the whole town, plus food vendors selling fries (with mayo, ketchup and queso seco – could there be a worse combination?), cotton candy, tacos, tajadas, ice cream (they don’t have another word for ice cream here, they just call it ihce crim), etc. Little kids were running and screaming all over the place, their hands sticky with sugar and sauce. You could barely find a hole in the crowd to get to the street. People were elbowing and shoving (something Hondurans are very adept at) to get through to the front, only to have the police come and push them back. Some people flat out ignored the police. Finally, at one point, two policemen grabbed a rope, tied it to a tree and then pulled it around the people to another pole, pulling tighter and tighter to force people to back up, like strangling them. You may think this inhumane, but it was necessary. People just didn’t get it! All the while they are dragging their kids along and have one arm holding a huge golf-like umbrella for shade. Of course the umbrellas mostly serve to block the view of everyone behind you and jab every other person in the head. Now, you may be thinking, oh sure, that happens in the U.S. too, nope, not like this. There were so many people in the street at one point that the parade couldn’t even pass through!

So, the main, and really the only, “festivity” was a parade of what seemed like every colegio (high school)student in town, dressed to the nines in freshly pressed uniforms and fancy shoes. The kids have a funny way of marching, a slow cantor with a foot shuffling motion, looking absolutely miserable, especially the girls in ridiculously high heels. It seemed to me like a graduation procession since the announcers were stating what path the students had studied, and the school year comes to an end in a few months so the timing makes sense.

Students marching

My favorite part though was the marching bands, well actually more like percussion ensembles. I only saw one group that had things like clarinets, trumpets and tubas, most had snare drums, bass drums, bongos, xylophones and those cans that you rub with metal to make a scratchy noise. Now let me first share with you that I can hear the bands practicing almost every night from my house and it doesn’t exactly please me. It’s rather annoying actually, one because there aren’t really songs with instruments so it sounds repetitive and two it’s loud and obnoxious. However, at a live performance, the marching bands are really something. A few of them were dressed in real marching band uniforms, the kind you might see at a college football game, so that was impressive. One band had some baton twirlers, including an adorable 4 year old little girl dressed in a blue corset and tutu ensemble, shaking her hips like Shakira. It was one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen.

The kids were all so focused and serious looking. They had these crazy and cool hand and body movements that they did. It wasn’t just marching down the street in a line, playing a song; it was as if each instrument group has its own moves and motions to accompany the songs. These kids were jumping around with arms flying everywhere in those big costumes, the poor things were practically dying from dehydration I imagine, the sweat soaking through every layer of their uniform. And yet every sequence or song they played seemed to last for 10 minutes! Then they’d start on another. The parading lasted for at least 3 hours! Now I can’t say that their sound quality or repertoire was magnificent, but their spirit, stamina and style could sure give the Michigan Marching Band a run for their money. Check out the video!

Feliz Dia de Independencia Honduras!

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