Friday, May 27, 2016

Los Negritos -- Dance of the Masked Men

You gotta be on your toes if you wanna see the good stuff in Panajachel!

Your first clue: rosca dealers! You may recall I blogged about the ring cookies before, and looking back now, it seems that that blog post was this same celebration...only I didn't know it.

Anyway, late last week I saw the vendors setting up near the market. I went to Facebook and asked, "What's coming up?" My Facebook buddies told me that it was Baile de Negritos, The Dance of the Masked Men. It seems to be the special way they celebrate the religious holiday of Corpus Christi. Because of that, the exact date changes every year, but you can figure out when it's going to fall based on Easter.

I was working on Thursday afternoon when I heard a commotion outside. It was getting closer and closer. I started typing faster to get my work done, and even faster when the music and honking and shouting started getting further away. I zoomed thru my work, submitted it, grabbed my keys and my camera, and raced out the door.

Just down the street, I saw this!
Hmm, what's going on up there?
I zigged and zagged up the street at a brisk walk, trying to catch up. Lucky for me, the group stopped to perform!
I raised my camera above the crowd to try to get a picture of the guys dancing. You can see a statue of a dude on the left. You can also admire some of the beautiful clothes the Mayan ladies wear.

All the participants in the procession were in high spirits!
(From drinking spirits, if you know what I mean!)

I snuck around to a higher vantage point to take some more photos and a short video to try to capture the music and hooting and general merriment. :)

Once the performance was done, the men picked up the marimba and walked on. 
I wanted to see more so I cut down a different street to try to get ahead of the procession.
I ended up kinda in the middle of the procession! No clue what street this was. I just moving with the crowd.
We walked together in a big group down the narrow cobbled street. Then most of the group started breaking off from the street and entering what looked like someone's backyard. I hesitated but a nice man standing at the gate (not in a costume) told me to come in, so I moved forward to check it out!
(I asked my very knowledgeable friend, N., about it later and she explained that there is an elder council of sorts in Pana and Jucanya that hosts and pays for these celebrations. The house that the party goes to is different every year.)
Very serious incense and candle bearers. Perhaps for them this is more religion and less fun and dancing.
I stood practically in the garden just at the entrance to the backyard and tried to take it all in. People were moving in and out, there were HUGE speakers set up playing music, everyone was chatting and some of the costumed men were hooting and cheering. Then I noticed everyone was going over to one area of the yard and coming back with what looked like bowls of chicken soup. Yummy!
(My friend N. told me they probably got a shot of the local liquor, Quetzalteca, too!)

I took some video and then moved back out of the garden area to let more people inside. I stood on the street with my friend and gawked at everything around me. So interesting! I said to N. that it seemed like drunken Halloween! She told me that it goes on into the night as well. I'm pretty sure I saw the night-time dance last year in front of the church. I remember being astounded at crazy dressed up people. But you know, that could be any day here in Guatemala!!  :D
All sorts of folks in the procession, and the float getting dangerously close to the wires, it seems to me!

Jesus joins the party. (At least I think that's him. He looks kinda blinged out!)

Amazing to see how many people came down this little street.
 I stood back and watched the two floats and the bands and pretty much everyone file past me. Kids were joking around. Masked men were teasing friends and randomly hooting and laughing. And the fireworks! EEKS. I actually was so close to a giant set of crackers going off that I got hit in the face with shrapnel! And the bombas, the big loud ones... ouch! I wasn't the only one plugging their ears. The men seemed to get such a kick out of setting the fireworks off though. Guess it brings out the kid in everyone. :)
Tons of smoke drifting around from incense and fire crackers.
You can see the firecracker debris all over the ground.

Such intricate designs. So beautiful.
The variations in costumes was fascinating. Some were like the man above, very intricate and traditional, with a mask carved out of wood. There were lots of animals costume, some kids dressed up, people wearing simple masks made out of a cut plastic ball, and then strange costumes like Darth Vader wearing traje (traditional women's clothing). There were many men dressed as women!

I've put together all the video into one video that's only about four minutes. Keep an eye on the crowd and see the amazing variety of outfits! I wish I had been able to see more of the late-night celebrations. Maybe next year!

For some jaw-dropping colourful photos of Pana's celebrations, including Los Negritos and Semana Santa, check out this blog I found called Cultura Es Vida.

EDIT: I found some more history about the dancing and costumes. It's in Spanish but you can use Google Translate in Chrome to turn it into English.
Corpus Christi and Los Negritos

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