Sunday, December 03, 2006

fiesta de patronales, apaneca style

one week of fiestas in honor of apaneca’s patron saint, san andrés apóstal, left me quite tired. every day since probably mid-november until the end of the fiestas (the 30th) i was awakened at 5:00 a.m. to the sound of cohetes which are unbelievably loud fireworks....not colorful fireworks, just loud bangs (similar to bottle rockets). anyway, the catholic church is behind setting these off to let the people know that something important (of course related to the catholic church) is going on in the pueblo. like a couple months back, it was the padre’s birthday and so they lit these things off that morning. and it gets mighty crazy around christmas with the cohetes. so they would let these off, two or more at a time every 15 minutes or so until 6:00 a.m. my new house is a block from the catholic church, which is where they set the cohetes off, and sometimes they would light them right on the street in front of my bedroom window. so there were mornings where i’d about have a heart attack when awakened by the BANG! BANG! but it’s all part of the tradition, so who am i to question it? and we all need to get up at 5:00 a.m. anyway, right?

so, the 25th was the first official day of the fiestas. it all started off with what they called “carnaval pilsener,” which was nothing more than a baile (dance). but bailes are important to the people here, especially the younger crowd. the problem with these bailes is they all start around 9:00 p.m. and last until 2:00 a.m. they are outdoors, usually in a selected street in the pueblo, and have speaker systems that are like none other. look, i’m getting up there in years, and when it’s cold and windy, the last thing i want to do is drag my ass outside to a dance where they are most likely only going to play reggaeton and techno mixes. so needless to say, i didn’t go to the carnaval pilsener (pilsener is the national beer here). but many a gente did.

there is one street near the mercado where they set up a bunch of food stands and other stands where they sell trinkets and recuerdos and pirated cd’s and dvd’s. there are also a bunch of rides – mostly for little kids – things like ferris wheels and swings and things like that. it’s totally rickety looking, but for the people here, it’s their one time of year to have a really fun time. it’s not like in the states where we are spoiled with tons of things to entertain us all the time. people are still impressed by stuff here, which is nice. kids don’t think the rides are boring or the trinkets are cheap. they are amazed that all this fun is around them. the food stands i will never understand. they all sell the same thing! yucca chips, platano chips, papas fritas and churros. there was one pizza stand and then some of the trinket vendors sold this huge selection of candies and cookies. but other than that, the yucca, platano, papas fritas and churros are el salvador’s version of carnival food. and boy do i love carnival food. i got addicted to the yucca chips with hot picante sauce....damn good!

the 26th was pretty major events happening. just the normal food fair in front of the mercado. the 27th was the procesión de santiago. this was super interesting. people of apaneca walk through the streets of apaneca with the padre of the catholic church and a statue of san andrés. some people dress up in traditional clothing, but it’s definitely not a requirement. when the procesión gets to the intersection of the carretera and first main street in apaneca, they wait for the arrival of santiago (santiago was good friends with san andrés back in the day). finally, people bring a statue of santiago up the carretera and meet up with the procesión that is waiting and santiago and san andrés meet each other. the people in the procesión throw confetti and flowers, the band plays some tunes and everyone claps in honor of their meeting. then the procesión continues through apaneca with both statues. i participated in this procesión not really knowing what was going on, or what was going to go on. that’s how most things happen for me here in el salvador....the only way i know exactly what’s going on is by seeing it and/or participating in it because i’ve never experienced it before. so when somebody tells me “oh there’s a procesión that’s gonna be at 3:30 and it’s gonna start in barrio santiago....,” i really have no idea what’s going on other than those few details.

so that day, antonio’s sister gloria, antonio and their mom came over to my house so gloria could change into her traditional dress. we then walked over to barrio santiago and stood around awhile waiting for things to get started and soon it started. i thought it was going to be like a parade, like i could stand on the sidelines and watch and take pictures. but since it was a procesión, it meant it was participatory and you walked with everyone else. i felt like a jackass....i was seriously way taller than most of the people that were participating and i stood out like a sore thumb. after a while, though, i forgot about my pena (preoccupation, embarassment) and just walked along with everyone. i’ll tell you what’s hard to do though....walk slowly. i’m not talking just slowing down from the normal “i gotta BE somewhere” pace. i’m talking really, really slow. like grandma-in-a-walker slow. i just find it so difficult to walk at this pace, but that was pretty much the pace of this procesión and by the end of it, my legs actually hurt from having to restrain myself from getting too far ahead. there’d be all these little old ladies, like at least a foot or more shorter than me keeping the pace for the rest of the people and it was hard! but it was such a cool traditional event to be a part of.

antonio´s sister gloria in her traditional dress

the start of the procesión

gloria and her and antonio´s mom with some other woman i don´t know

and on down the carretera

the arrival of santiago

meeting san andrés

the first of about 25 caballeros that followed the procesión

the end of the procession......check out the padre on his cellphone. ahhh, technology.

a street in apaneca with cerro apaneca in the background

the next day, the 28th, was the same type of procesión, but this time san andrés was meeting up with san pedro. i was told that this procesión isn’t as popular or allegre as the one with santiago. i didn’t attend this one as it started really early in the morning. but don’t worry, i did get to see san pedro later that week. so on the 29th courtney came into town to hang out for a couple days. they picked the queen for the fiestas that day and then after that was a big fireworks display....not cohetes, these were pólvoras....fireworks that were the of the colorful kind. i loooove pólvoras and these were great even if it was one of the most dangerous displays i’ve ever attended. we walked around the area with the food and rides and we saw a huge trampoline and courtney and i were debating whether or not to go on it. we were both going to, but they’d only let one person do it at a time, so courtney did it. i decided not to because right when i was going to, a bunch of kids from my school came up and were like “señorita laura!” so i figured i better not make an ass out of myself by jumping around on a trampoline by myself.

later that night there were not one, but two bailes. do you remember a few entries back when i told you all how there is a group of people in apaneca that are against the mayor? well this group put together a dance to compete with the dance that was sponsored by the alcalde. the dance sponsored by the alcalde had a $6.00 entry fee. the other dance was free. so of course most people went to the free dance, even if they weren’t against the mayor. apparently not that many people went to the alcalde’s dance. in truth, i would have rather gone to the alcalde’s dance because they had an actual band that was playing traditional type music. the other dance was a “discoteca” which meant more reggaeton and techno, but they also played some traditional salsa, merengue and cumbia. anyways, so courtney, antonio and i went to this dance and we actually danced. no, there are no pictures of that! oh, and as we were dancing, i saw josue, one of the kids that just graduated from 6th grade (!) at my school. i said “hola” to him and he gave me this total gangster handshake and i was like “where am i?”

courtney and i during the fireworks

courtney on the trampoline

a couple of the kids at my school on one of the rides

a band playing for some people at restaurant texixil

thursday the 30th was the final day of the fiestas. around
7:30 p.m. there was a parade to show off all the “kings and queens” of the barrios in apaneca. there are four barrios here: santiago, san pedro, calvario and san jose. anyway, they also had the statues of san andrés, santiago and san pedro in the parade. following this parade, there was another fireworks display, only this time it was on the plaza of the catholic church. this was by far the most dangerous fireworks display i’ve ever seen. it’s no wonder there are so many injuries and deaths every year in this country from fireworks. there was this huge tall display, called a castillo, that said “felices fiestas apaneca” and it was covered with fireworks. after waiting around for everyone to get to the plaza and what-not, a marimba band started and some guy announced all the names of the kings and queens of the barrios. then there were more fireworks like the ones the night before. these were more scattered though. there was this guy that would go light them and then run back over to the steps of the church for cover. this was less than 20 feet from where all the people were standing! then for the finale, they lit the castillo. the first lights were lit and then they spread up the castillo slowly. at one point there were these two wheels that were shooting sparks all over and everyone was clapping and excited and i’m like “we’re all gonna burn to death!” seriously, it was that close to us. sparks were flying into the crowd but nobody seemed to care! anyway, finally it ended and we were all out of danger. it was a cool display and i suppose going back to what i was saying before – it was a huge deal for the people here. so it was cool. later there was another baile although this time it wasn’t really a baile. a traditional band played while a dance group danced to salsa and cumbia and stuff like that and some people in the crowd danced along. but mostly it was like a concert. courtney was really sick with gripe or something, so only antonio and i went to that.

san andrés


san pedro

this poor kid fell asleep before the parade was over

courtmey took this pic and the following one. these are yucca and platano chips.


one of the candy sellers

dark, i know, but it´s the ¨felices fiestas apaneca¨ castillo

no, this isn´t dangerous at all

and the grand finale

and that was it! i like fiestas de patronales because we really have nothing like it in the states. sure, we have our st. patrick’s day parades and things like that, but there’s really nothing that is city-specific in the states. in fact, would we even allow something like that? you know, mixing mayor sponsered events with something that is religious-based? i guess we do have the christmas parades and such, but they don´t include jesus and the nativity and all that. do they? all I ever remember seeing in those parades are huge santa and snoopy balloons. or is that thanksgiving? jeez…i´ve been gone too long! Sbut anyway, it really is a different culture down here – the way religion is so much a part of everything.

i have a couple days left before i leave for my sailing trip. i can’t believe i’m actually going. hopefully there won’t be any tropical storms or anything to cloud the days out to sea. by the time i return it will be time for my parents to arrive. yes, that’s right. my parents are making the trip to el salvador for a christmas visit – so i’ll be sure to have my camera ready for that. so get ready for the blog entries that will follow because they’ll probably be super long and chock full of pictures!

so, adios for now........this time next week i’ll be in the caribbean sitting on the beach of a caye in belize with a beer in my hand! somebody call jimmy buffett......