Wednesday, September 10, 2008


what the heck are farolitos? well, glad you asked. the english word for ¨farolitos¨ is ¨lanterns.¨ but farolitos is also used as the name of a celebration we have here, and only here, in the department of ahuachapán. in all of el salvador, only two towns have a farolitos celebration: ataco and ahuachapán. on september 7th of every year, in these two towns, people come from all over to hang their own farolitos in celebration of the virgen mary. la virgen de maria is the patron saint of both ataco and ahuachapán, and on september 7th, both towns are absolutely glowing.

¡viva la virgen maria!

after getting back from suchitoto, antonio and i were both super tired, but i didn´t want to miss out on farolitos in ataco, so we hopped on the bus again. after the short 5-minute bus ride, we arrived in ataco just in time to see almost every owner of every store and house adorning their stores and houses with farolitos. the traditional farolitos are hand-made with wood frames. see-through colored paper is then glued to all sides of the wooden frame. tie a few pieces of string and put in a regular old candle and you´ve got yourself a farolito. if you don´t feel like making your own, you can buy them (still hand-made, just not by you) at most tiendas in ataco (or ahuachapán, depending where you live).

these are what the traditional farolitos look like

it really is a beautiful sight. it totally reminds me of christmas. the church has it´s farolito display outside the church and various streets have their own as well. and you can hang yours wherever you feel like hanging it. there was a small procession of women from the church carrying a statue of the virgen mary through the streets, followed by fireworks and this year, a lively music show consisting of rock and ranchera.

hanging lights on the church´s display

the church´s official display directly in front of the church´s main door....there was kind of a running mass going on at the time as well

it seriously is almost like how you go see the christmas lights in whatever city you live in back in the states.....only the lights are all candle-powered instead of using huge mega watts of electricity. while the candles are burning bright, people are out and about, socializing, eating tons of food and drinking café or chocolate. the public school in ataco had an especially pretty display....a long line of farolitos set on the ground, leading to the huge plaza in the center of the school. the plaza was lit up like a christmas tree.

the long line of lights to the school plaza

inside the plaza, a wooden cart with a paper-made boy and girl inside, surrounded by farolitos

some kids in the school who were REALLY excited about the fact that i had a camera and REALLY wanted their picture taken

soon, unlike those christmas lights powered by electricity, the candles burn out and everyone winds down and brings their farolitos inside where they will wait until next year´s celebration. but for those couple of hours when the farolitos are all lit up on every street and corner, it´s a truly magical place.

the alcaldia (mayor´s building)

one of the community street displays

i thought this mural, painted on a wall on one of the streets, was clever. they painted farolitos on the mural, but also hung real ones in front of the painting.

a salvador del mundo display (salvador del mundo is the patron saint of san salvador, and generally speaking, all of el salvador)

the libras de amor display (libras de amor is a foundation that helps the poor by giving them food and helping women start up small businesses)

the farolitos outside my very favorite yuquetería

outside ataco´s fmln headquarters....not surprisingly, ALL of their farolitos were red

more of the fmln´s display

an arch of farolitos over a street

some non-traditional farolitos

a hand-painted farolito

flower farolitos

man and woman farolitos

this one is a giant farolito which is a replica of the catholic church in ataco