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In Guatemala, Life Takes on Special Meaning When Remembering Death

By Mayra Beltran de Daetz

GUATEMALA: In Guatemala, life beats to a different rhythm than the United States.

For one, it’s time for students’ school vacations.
Our scholastic cycle is different from the one used in the USA. Here, the children begin to study in the month of January and finish the second week of October.
To all who still have jobs to go to the change in the students’ schedule is obvious and immediate — the city’s traffic diminishes considerably.
Families start looking for sports and handicraft activities to register the children to keep them busy during the fall months until the start of the new school year in winter.
Talking about weather, winds have arrived to Guatemala. The leaves of the trees are falling, not as noticeable as the autumn you live, but that season is marked slightly with us.
The cold season begins to arrive with light showers as if saying good-bye to warm temperatures.
At this time, there is also an important event for Guatemalans just around the corner — “Day of all Saints or Día de los Difuntos.”
Most Catholic towns in the world celebrate this day. It is considered one of the oldest Catholic events with its roots in old pagan rites.
In 998, San Odilón, Abbot of the Monastery of Cluny, in France, dedicated the celebration of November 2 as a day to pray for the souls of the faithful who had passed away.
During this celebration, many people visit the cemeteries and adorn the tombs of their dear relatives and friends who already have passed away.
In Guatemala, in the department (province) of Santiago Sacatepéquez, the giant kites are a great attraction.
The tradition of making huge, colorful kites is a unique and original Guatemalan tradition.

This tradition originated more than a century ago but it wasn’t until around 1940 that it was first documented. It was created as a form to communicate with the dead and to frighten the bad spirits.
It is said that the sound of the wind crashing against the paper frightens the bad spirits away.
It is a festival that has grown in national and international prominence as a cultural inheritance of Guatemala.

Accompanied by these activities cannot be left out the culinary aspect — in other words, the food.
It is very typical to eat on November 1 a food that is made only once a year known as “Fiambre.”

Fiambre is a mixture of meats, vegetables and cheeses. For dessert, it is common to eat such dishes as ayote and jocotes in candy.
Because of the extensive and elaborate preparations of the traditional dishes, in which preparations of the food is begun several days ahead of the festival, many families use this time for family reunions since more hands to help the better.
Overall, it is a special time in Guatemala.
If you should find yourself thinking about coming to visit Guatemala, consider coming during this special time.
You will not only enjoy the excellent climate, the variety in foods and our unique customs and traditions — but you will share all of this with new friends.
Learn more about Mayra:
Mayra Etna Beltrán Molina de Daetz is a native-born Guatemalan who lives in Guatemala City with her husband and teenage son. After attending one of the most noted secretarial schools in the country, Mayra graduated with a secretarial certification — and the ability to speak and write English, as well as, know French.
Yet, she wanted more of a career and so she took architect and graphic design classes at a local university in Guatemala City. Unable to finish her university studies due to finances, Mayra became a stewardess and has over 100 hours in the air.
Yet, she always wanted to be involved with the media and so she returned to school and was able to get a degree in sales and marketing.
As a result, she has worked for a weekly magazine and a newspaper.

I have had opportunity to attend International congresses, in which I have known very important people at the more important international newspapers, which has been a very gratifying experience and has allowed me to have friendships outside of my country.

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  • led
    April 21, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Nice article. I really need your help though. It would mean a lot to me if you could post up an article about the daily life of a Guatemalan in the next day or two? It would really help me with my project . Thanks a lot!

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