Independence in Guatemala means two things, the fair and the grito. La feria, as the locals call it, is a mix of rides that would never pass safety standards in the states and food, which easily pass my standards, as well as make other things pass through my standards. The fair lasts for a little over a week and is extremely fun. The grito, which is Spanish for the shout, is like our fireworks celebration on the 4th of July. Except they throw a concert into the mix and give a shout out at midnight. Both of these events are something a person living in Guatemala must experience. I started salivating for the food at the fair about the moment I first heard about it, which happened August 1sth (the day I arrived in Xela). Can you blame me? All the greasy Guatemalan grub a guy could grab and crazy rides.
Guatemalan’s official Independence day was last Monday, the 15th, which was celebrated with a gigantic party lasting from Sunday night until early Monday morning. This was definitely one of my most enjoyable nights in Xela, even though no one gave a shout out at midnight. The best part of the grito (just a little spanglish here) was hanging out with the crazy Guats, which was highlighted by convincing a friend to kick a sign because she was mad at someone. She asked me to hold her drink, which I accepted and she preceded to kick around the sign and knock the drink into my face. Yuk, about as bad as crazy corn.
The grito was a blast and something no one should miss if they are in Guatemala, but wasn’t the food fest that I had been looking forward to for a month and a half. I’d say it was a good appetizer to the main feast. On Wednesday night, the 17th, the main course finally was served. Oh what a dish!
I shall start with the rides first, because if you eat first you will throw-up, heck even if you don’t eat first you will throw-up. I rode two rides and cut my self off. I was way too dizzy and sore. The first ride, the tagada, which is Spanish for ride of death, or ride at your own risk, was insane. Even some of the Guatemalan’s won’t ride this one. More people watch this ride than actually tempt their fates by getting on the ride.
The tagada looks like a large upside down frizbee. A bench sits along the outer rim with only a couple of bars behind it for “safety.” Riders sit on this bench and hold onto the bars as the ride spins and tilts up to a 35-degree angle, riders have to hold on because there aren’t any seat belts. Then it starts to bounce up and down in an attempt to throw the riders off the bench. At all points on this ride death is a possibility.
At about half past six I tempted my fate. It was starting to get dark out, lights were bursting to life. I sat down on the hard red bench, no seat bets, remember. I grabbed the “safety” rail behind me with my right hand, my other hand was blocked by Tony, who sat down next to me, pinning me neatly in the middle of himself and Josh. Not a safe place. The ride started to spin, tilted up a little making my butt slide off the seat. Josh started kicking my legs, trying to make me slip off the seat. I resisted. The ride started to spin faster; then it stopped. No time to relax. At this stage the real danger started. Still at a tilt the ride started to bounce me up and down. I flew up out of my seat, or jumped as one of my students recalled who was watching from the crowd. Fate would’ve taken my life if not for my iron grip. I landed back on the hard bench with a thud and quickly readjusted my body so I could fend off both Josh and Tony. This worked beautifully. With my body turned to the side so my back was facing Tony and both feet up on the bench next to Josh’s butt. I started pushing with all my might and nearly pushed Josh, who is about twice my size, off the bench. The ride continued to spin and bump, but as a cowboy masters the bull, I mastered the ride. Bruised, but satisfied I excited the victor.
The next ride conquered me. It spun me up, down, inside out, and upside down. If there was a way to spin a rider this ride spun me that way. When the ride ended I nearly puked. Puking would have ended my night, before the main event, which meant no more rides for me.
Around 7 p.m. we moved into the food tent, not a moment too soon. The clear night quickly turned into a flood. Perfect time to eat. My first dish was a Burrito con pollo. Amazing! During the burrito feast I tried a bite of crazy corn. Let me just say, yuk. Although the Guatemalan’s don’t agree.
Next, I walked through the maze of eateries to the taco booth. I ordered my new favorite dish, a taco on a soft flour tortilla with beef, hot sauce, and a lime. This taco was the highlight of the night, at least food wise. My stomach was starting to feel full, but I still had so much more to try. After a small break I grabbed a plate of pizza. The crust was light and fluffy, but enough to make me full. There was so much more I wanted to try, but alas I only had room for one bag of churros. Unfortunately the consuming of the churro meant saying ciao to the Guatemalans. I had to get to bed so I could teach the next day.
I wanted to stay and continue to eat with the Guatemalans, but I had to be responsible, and buy a churro on my way out. Churros are fried bread with sugar dumped on top. This desert was fabulous. I scarfed down my churro and was surprised to find about a cup full of sugar at the bottom of my bag. Quickly I dumped the sugar into my mouth and called it a night. To anyone living in Guatemala this is a must.