Todos Santos Cuchumatán
Todos Santos is usually a small quiet town where inhabitants proudly wear brightly coloured traditional clothing. In many regions, only women wear traditional garments, but in Todos Santos, it is worn by men, young, teenagers, and obviously by the women. People in this town are very welcoming, and it's a pleasure to stroll around.
Now, imagine the biggest annual fiesta, with numerous visitors from the surroundings villages, a fair with exciting games and rides, large quantity of food, alcohol flowing in abundance, music from the marimba, public dancing, deafening firecrackers, fireworks, evenings of music at the municipal centre, a horse race under the influence of alcohol, and the famous Day of the Dead when people go to the cemetery to remember lost ones. Wow, what an exhilarating week of fiesta.
Let's begin with the first few days of the fiesta, before the race and the day at the cemetery.
Todos Santos is the main town in the municipality of the same name, and count, in addition to the town itself, 6 villages and 69 smaller rural communities. The inhabitants are mainly indigenous, of Mayan descent, and most of them speak the Mayan language of Mam. The town itself has only a population of about 3,000 people, but during the fiesta, the town attracts a few thousands people from the surrounding villages, and also Guatemalan tourists and a few foreigners.
The town in itself is not very attractive apart from the mountains all around it. It is the people that make Todos Santos an interesting place to visit.
During the annual fiesta, on October 31st, a great exterior mass is celebrated in the presence of a large crowd of believers. People in Todos Santos, as in the rest of Guatemala, are mainly Catholic.
We do not come to Todos Santos to see a nice town, but to meet nice people. You will notice that the vast majority of them wear traditional clothing, regardless of their age or gender.
The fair seems to be an important part of any good fiesta in the Latin countries. In fact, there were two fair grounds, each having a large wheel and other rides.
Every time I visit such a fair, I am a bit nostalgic since it reminds me of the Quebec Expo (my home town) in the 1980s. In addition, the rides and games all seem to date from that era.
This large wheel is controlled from this control station. It's a diesel engine, possibly from a tractor, with a brake pedal, an accelerator pedal, and a lever to change the direction of the wheel.
Watch the penultimate video of this post to see a video sequence of this large wheel in action. You will see that the speed of rotation is incredible. Just watching it was making me sick.
The marimba is the traditional instrument used during the fiesta. Each place where I have seen a marimba, there were three musicians playing at the same time.
Inspired by the music, there are always some dancers, and a large number of onlookers. In the guide books, it's said that the dancing is male businessr, but I have seen several women dancing.
Watch the video...
During the fiesta, there are some people launching bombs. The photo doesn't give justice to the intensity of the bang of theses firecrackers, but you can imagine it by looking at the size of the rocket launcher, and the size of the bomb.
The bomb fly a few dozen metres in the air, and explode like a deafening thunderclap. In addition, the mountains surrounding the town create amazing echoes.