Smoke and deafening explosions filled the air for maybe an hour as men ran through a minefield of granadas (translated to grenades) lighting the fireworks and firecrackers tied to them and bombas blasted noisily into the air from inside a heavy, metal tube placed vertically on the ground. Spectators clamped their hands to their ears, flinched, cowered and emitted screams and cheers as rogue fireworks shot off in random directions.
Every 7th of December a parade or convite slowly makes its way through the streets of the former capital Ciudad Vieja just outside Antigua in Guatemala. The following day they celebrate the town’s virgin patron’s day, Día de la Virgen de La Concepción, and after mass in the cathedral everyone crowds into the plaza outside for the noisy display of granadas.
Nowadays, Guatemalans celebrate all Catholic festivals with fireworks, firecrackers and bombas and due to a myriad of religious festivals throughout the year, it’s a rare day when there’s silence in the streets.
On this day, when the sounds subside and the smoke clears but with ringing ears and the sharp scent of gunpowder still in the nostrils, colorful folkloric dances begin. These mainly originated in the Iberian Peninsula and were probably brought over to Guatemala during colonial times picking up their own flavor in local towns and are a mix of theatrical dances and presentations.
The Dance of the 24 Devils, the Dance of the Seven Vices and Seven Virtues and the Dance of the Moors and Christians are three of the most popular.
A firework and firecracker laden granada.
Close up of a granada showing attached fireworks and firecrackers wrapped in paper.
Another close up of a granada and attached fireworks.
Field of granadas.
A colorful granada.
More granadas ready for lighting.
Fireworks shooting through the air from the granadas.
Hiding from the fireworks behind an ice cream cart.
Decorated cathedral façade and bags of cotton candy.
Carrying a heavily laden granada.
Ice cream carts lined up outside the cathedral waiting for customers.
An indigenous woman's colorful headdress called a tzute.
Sheltering behind an ice cream cart and plugging ears against the deafening explosions.
A rogue firework shooting off from a granada.
A smoke-filled plaza.
More smoke and more rogue fireworks.
Running away after lighting the granadas.
An indian's beautiful feathered headdress.
Rear view of the same headdress showing feathers and animal tail.
Front view of the same headdress with animal skull and a mask.
Full view of feathered headdresses from behind.
The quetzal, the national bird of Guatemala, adorns his headdress.
The Spaniards dancing.
Female figures in the Dance of the Seven Vices and Seven Virtues.
Dance of the Seven Vices and Seven Virtues.
Rear view of the devil's hair.
The monkey and a devil in the Dance of the 24 Devils.
The monkey dancing.
Playing the marimba, a traditional instrument in Guatemala.
Death in the Dance of the 24 Devils.
Close up of Death.