A Guatemalan Wedding

Guatemalan Modern Society does not show many traces of an independently developed culture, many of the religious rituals, celebrations, etc. are offspring of the colonizers. When you attend a Guatemalan birthday, a graduation, a wedding, you’ll feel like it could be in any European, Western country; the music, the food, the ambiance: true, in Guatemala City, middle class Guatemalans rather sign the happy birthday song in English.
I’m glad there are the indigenous people who refuse to leave their customs.
They’ll attend a wedding wearing their regional güipil (Mayan Dress), despite the rest of the attendees wearing formal Westernized clothing.
I attended a wedding this last Saturday and I was a witness to this cultural phenomena, and in fact, I saw an elderly man carrying his belongings in a “Sute” a large colorful fabric that wraps around them.
If it wasn’t for these little details, many times unnoticed, the even’t would’t have had that Guatemalan touch.

© 2014, Eli Orozco. All rights reserved.

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  • elgordo

    I enjoy your pictures and your social commentary. Sometimes, like now, I disagree with you. Guatemalan culture is an amalgam of many things — old, new, Mayan, European, traditional, iconoclastic, etc. The wedding in your pictures could not possibly be associated with any other country in the world but Guatemala. Of course we dress in western clothing. How would you have us dress? Like peasants? Like Mayans? Like Spaniards? Just because I wear a suit to a wedding does not make me any less Guatemalan than a Mayan. Anyone who believes this is showing the most pernicious type of racism, one clothed in virtue. My family sings the birthday song in English right before singing “Ya queremos pastel.” How does this make us less Guatemalan? If you haven’t noticed, most Guatemalan music is instrumental. Traditionally, in my experience, apart from some weird children’s songs (like the mishito song) we don’t have a singing culture. So what if we appropriate other countries songs for our own use? That being said, I miss hearing the marimba in our celebrations and seeing people dance to our old songs and rhythms, hearing the sound of feet shuffling over pine needles. Our culture, like every other culture, is changing and becoming globalized. This is not a reflection on Guatemala, but rather the times in which we are living. For a country our size, with our history, and with modern technologies, we are remarkably unique.

    • Great feedback and commentary, Gordo. I wish we much more of it.

    • Elí Orozco

      Hello ElGordo and thanks for reading.
      I’ve never said wearing westernized clothing makes one less Guatemalan. I implied that we never developed an independent style; like the Chinese or the Indians. We simple adopted ours from the colonizers and now from globalization.
      Singing the birthday song half English and half Spanish does not make anyone anything, it simple shows how susceptible we are to foreign influences. I doubt the Chinese, Russians, French, Germans, etc. do this.
      Yes, all societies have been influenced by others, specially now with this globalized world we live in.
      What I dislike about the Guatemalan scenario is how we readily embrace foreign traditions, styles, anglicisms, etc. and fail to do the same with our own culture. We fail to value our languages, or traditions and those elements that have risen here.

      • That was so eloquent, Elí, I’m impressed.

      • elgordo

        We (ladinos) are the product of European immigrants and Mayas. Our ancestors, not being fully part of either culture, chose the more practical aspects of both cultures to form its identity. Perhaps this cultural pragmatism is the part of our national character that makes us susceptible to adopt (and eventually adapt) foreign influences.

        • Elí Orozco

          Thanks for reading and commenting ElGordo.
          I’m traveling to Peten this weekend so I’ll have fresh photos for you..
          Kind regards..

  • NYChapin

    Eli: le diste al clavo en la cabeza “We fail to value our languages, or traditions and those elements that have risen here.”

    Why ? well that’s what I have been trying to find out for myself the last few years. Fortunately, there has been a lot of work by many people to help us get there. I recommend reading ” Porque estamos como estamos” by CIRMA. You can also balance that out by reading Demetrio Cotji and Victor Montejo. By the way, last time I saw you you were wearing Levis jeans and Nikes ! wattcha talkin bout Willis?

    • Elí Orozco

      You got me there NYChapin.. that’s why I say “We”..

    • Very good points NYChapin, Elí is playing double standards here. 😉