Home Must See Guatemala’s 7 Biggest Cultural Festivals

Guatemala’s 7 Biggest Cultural Festivals


Guatemala’s festivals and fairs tend to reflect the country’s artistic, religious and ethnic background. On the one hand, there are über-modern electronic music and jazz festivals. Then there are the indigenous artists who create works that celebrate their Pre-Columbian heritage. Several festivals reflect the strong influence of Catholicism over every day religious life. A visit to one of Guatemala’s fairs and festivals promises to be an exciting, unique and a once-in-lifetime experience.

The International Jazz Festival spans three weeks in Guatemala City in March or April. Big name groups like the Native Jazz Quartet with Jason Marsalis (jazz’s equivalent of an artist of the caliber of a Matisse or Renoir) are featured.

The annual Empire Music Festival celebrates electronic music, springtime and romance. The two-day festival is held in April at the Raceway Guatemala near Guatemala City. More than 40 artists are featured at this huge outdoor party.

The Totonicapan Tradicional de Danza (Dance Festival) in Guatemala is usually held in October and features traditional, masked dancers.

The Nim-Akij Sololá (Grand Day of Sololá) celebrates folklore and tradition and the event is held August 7th through the 17th in Sololá, a town located in the highlands 84 miles from Guatemala City. Sololá is noted for the fact that its women still wear traditional clothing on a daily basis and during Nim-Akij Sololá, Indians from both the lowlands and the highlands bring products to sell at the plaza market.

Día de Todos los Santos (All Saints Day), which is celebrated on November 1, features unique traditions throughout Guatemala; for instance, giant kites are flown in the cemeteries of Santiago Sacatepequez and Sumpango near Antigua. Many Guatemalans hold a family feast in which they eat a traditional food known as fiambre, which is a fancy, chilled salad made from up to 50 ingredients. In Todos Santos Cuchumatan, a small village in the highlands where people still wear traditional clothing, festivities include marimba music, traditional dances, and horse races, which are marked by mayhem and bloodshed because the rider often drink alcohol for days prior to the races.

In Guatemala City on December 8th at 6 p.m. sharp, the La Quema del Diablo (Burning the Devil) celebration is held. Families build bonfires outside their homes (more than 500,000 bonfires to be exact) and, in the historic district vendors sell devil horns to wear and firecrackers to ignite. The goal is to symbolically rid homes of the devil, who could be lurking behind furniture, under beds or in piles of rubbish. La Quema del Diablo purifies homes in preparation for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which honors Guatemala’s patron saint, the Blessed Virgin Mary.