May 29, Panajachel

It’s the night before the festival of Corpus Christi.  My house is across the street from the Catholic church, and around 7 PM I heard music outside, so I went out.  In the plaza, a bunch of men in fantastical costumes and masks were dancing while three guys played a big marimba.  A crowd was watching them.   Statues of the saints had been marched out of the church, into the plaza.  As I watched the dancers, a brass band began to play and the saints were ceremoniously marched into the church.  The band was not playing with the marimba players, but simultaneously.  To add to the general racket, there is an Evangelical church right next to the plaza, and it also had music going as loud as possible. A bunch of guys were also shooting off fireworks, which are basically cannons pointed skyward.

After a while, I saw the members of the brass band walking off together carrying their instruments.  It looked like they were going somewhere to do something, so I followed after them.  There were two trumpets, a trombone, a baritone horn, a share drum, and a bass drum. They were carrying their instruments and not playing them.  In the lead were two old guys in more or less traditional Mayan clothing, one playing a drum and the other playing a double-reed instrument that sounded something like an oboe, and something like a duck.


They walked a considerable distance across town with the drum and the oboe/duck playing at the head of the little procession, into a residential neighborhood, and finally into a house.  I asked permission to enter the house, and I was welcomed in.  I was in a large room or maybe a courtyard.  At the far end, several women were busy doing something in what appeared to be a kitchen.  Some small children were running around.  A few men were moving around busily.  The brass band guys sat down in plastic chairs with their backs to the wall, facing the room.  The host of the house  offered me a chair and asked them to play something, apparently for my benefit. They played one song, and then they just sat there holding their instruments.  There was no other audience or congregation present, except for me.  


After they played one song, the host invited me into the confradía, a much smaller room,  highly decorated and full of flowers, candles, and saints.   I asked him if he was the Alcalde, and he said no, a word I didn’t quite get, but something like the “confrada.”  The two old guys who had playing drum and oboe/duck were sitting in chairs, and I was offered a chair.  Two or three other guys were coming and going.  I offered a contribution, which was accepted.  The confrada started passing out glasses of rum.  I raised my glass to the saints, and the guys insisted that I drink the entire glass of rum.  The other guys chased the rum with Coca Cola, but I passed on that.


A younger man explained to me who some of the saints in the room were.  I asked him if more people were coming, and if the band was going to play some more, and he said not tonight.  Tomorrow they will have a celebration in the confradía, lunch, and then a procession to the church.  After a while I shook hands with everyone and took my leave.  The band guys were still sitting in chairs, facing the room, holding their instruments.  My guess is that the returned to the confradia in a procession, as they had gone to the church earlier, but I have not figured out why they continued to sit there.




Yesterday morning I wrote something and did not post it to the blog because I don’t want to overwhelm my readers with too much stuff.  For those patient individuals who are interested enough to keep reading, here it is.


I went to see Cush at the music school. Cush had made recordings of us in his studio and had never heard them on Youtube, where I put them up.   So we went over to a cafe for a cup of coffee, and to listen to ourselves on Youtube.   At least a half dozen friends of Cush walked by and stopped to chat with us.  A couple from Seattle who heard me play at the Posada de Santiago the last time I was here, happen to be in Guatemala again, as am I, and happened to walk into the same cafe in Panajachel at the same time as me, and so we passed an hour chatting.  And then Juan Diaz from San Antonio Palopo, to whom Wayne Hess in Beaverton asked me to deliver some money, passed by and recognized me, and so Juan and I walked over to my house and I gave him the money from Wayne.   And thus passed the afternoon.

I’m amazed to be in a place where all you have to do is sit down in a cafe and everyone comes by and meets you.  This place feels magical to me again.