The first time it happens, don’t be surprised if you experience what feels like a mild heart attack. There you are, snuggled up under a toasty blanket when suddenly, a small war breaks out outside your front door. Panic hits you first, then comes a sick feeling of disorientation.
“Where am I?”, you ask yourself? “Somalia? Somewhere in Pakistan?”
Then it dawns on you that, yes, you’re on foreign soil, somewhere in Central America. Guatemala, actually.
Nerves frazzled, you shut your eyes trying to catch some sleep – but it won’t work. I know you’ll try to regardless of what I just told you. Just accept your morning is wrecked and that you might as well get on with your day.
Guatemalans Love Loud Fireworks
It might take you – and your dogs, if you have any – some time to get used to the ‘lovely’ local tradition of setting off bombas, or firecrackers at all hours, for any conceivable celebration. And not the pretty ones that light up the sky, but fireworks resembling mortar shells designed to go off at a certain height, or the type that go off like a machine gun.
Someone’s birthday? Bombas will go off at dawn at 6 am sharp, sleeping neighbors be damned.
A procession leaving a church? Bombas.
The Vice President renounces her post due to a corruption scandal? Bomba time.
As I type this, bombas are going off, I presume because it’s 6:27 pm on a Sunday night and I’m sure something noteworthy happened a long time ago at this very exact hour. It’s the only logical explanation.
If you have dogs, fireworks can be highly stressful for them. I recommend that you take a look at what are some of the things you can do to minimize their stress here.
There are two times during the year when bomba explosions ratchet up in frequency and intensity – Independence Day in September and Christmas. It’s one of those things that’s synonymous with the holidays here, as much a part of Christmastime as drinking ponche (hot fruit punch), eating tamales, setting the Devil ablaze, going door to door in tiny processions (posadas), and unwittingly buying Christmas presents for children of local Police Officers via bribes.
Bomba season starts ratcheting up on December 11, on the eve of the day of Virgin of Guadalupe Day, a wholly Mexican celebration that has taken root in Guatemala. And that’s my segue-way to show some pics and there’s nothing anyone can do about it :)
Virgin of Guadalupe Day Celebrations
This celebration is all about the children, whom parents dress up in traditional attire. Boys are dressed as Juan Diego – a saint who some in the Catholic Church doubt even existed, while girls are dressed as indigenous girls. Fake beards for boys are part of the costume.
In Antigua, children are taken to churches – usually La Merced, where photographers have set up displays with live animals.
Virgen de Guadalupe Photo Stand
For a fee – and there’s always a fee (Q20), children can pose for and receive a picture. There was about 10-15 such photo stands, all competing with each other for business (hence the appearance of live animals – chickens, roosters, rabbits, parrots, and kittens).
The atmosphere in front of the church’s plaza is really festive and full of all sorts of street vendors selling traditional food items.
Although it seems like I was complaining about bombas at first – maybe I was, at least about the early morning ones – I really enjoy the Christmas season here. I can stay far away from Guatemala City malls (traffic is hellacious there at this time of the year anyway), while also getting into the spirit of the season. Christmas without consumerism – what a novel concept.
Thinking of moving to Antigua? Go here: https://okantigua.com/guatemala-expat/
Do you love early morning bombas?
Identify yourself as a mental patient in the comments below!