Fiestas Julias!

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The kids before the parade.They were excited!

It’s been a whirlwind of fun here in Huehuetenango! Starting today and ending July 18 is Fiestas Julias, which translates to July Festivals. For the next week there will be stands on the streets filled with great food, snacks, and souvenirs. There will be a carnival in town, and of course more fun to be had. What are we celebrating? I am still not exactly sure. From what I understand from one of my colleagues and a brief search on the internet, it is a week to celebrate the mother of the Virgin Mary, Señora Santa Ana. We (the staff of Colegio Bilingüe Esperanza) are going to take this week to rest, reset, and immerse ourselves into festival! But before any of that could begin, we had to dance in the streets.

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Costumes of the school ahead of us in the parade.

The week kicks off with a parade of all the schools in the department. Most of the schools in the area use a live band to play songs such as Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” Our number was a flash mob dance routine featuring bands such as The 1975, Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, and of course One Direction, our students favorite band. Our school wore our school uniforms with matching navy blue ties for the boys and bows for the girls. Other schools have matching costumes ranging from cowboys and cowgirls to younger students wearing animal costumes, and traditional dress as well.

Practice begins early. Our school started learning our routine for 40 minutes each day at the beginning of June. The week of the parade we took the students outside to practice walking while doing the choreography. I am so proud of these kids. During practices, they worked hard and carefully followed directions in order to improve. During the parade, we were a major hit, receiving compliments and screams from the crowd because they were singing in English and dancing in sync. This led to local parents wanting more information about our school!

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Our banner featuring the United States flag and the Guatemalan flag!

I loved being a part of the creative process. I was in charge of teaching the kids Phil Wickham’s “At Your Name” during Music class. We sang this song in between our dance sessions during the parade. Myself, an English teacher Carolyn Boustead, and Spanish teacher Alfredo Figueroa spent one afternoon choreographing the dance together. I was encouraged by the way the three of us were able to bounce ideas off of each other to eventually create a dance that was both fun and challenging for the students.

Below are two videos. The first one is of the full dance during an earlier portion of the parade route (Special thanks to my friend Bethany Moore for filming). The second video is a short clip of part of the dance about halfway through the parade route. Thanks to Mark Wakefield for sharing the video! Enjoy! It was fun to be a part of a great Huehuetenango tradition.

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