I write the following not to demean an aspect of Guatemalan, American or really any other culture, rather, I write this because I don’t like parades. I’ll explain. September 15th is Independence Day here in Guatemala, which I was excited to be here for. Everyday since we have been here we have been welcomed to the sound of drumming and other marching band type music, usually coming from schools, and it was explained to us that they are practicing for the 15th. Apparently they start practicing about two months ahead of time for this one day for hours on end. (1) So this morning I ventured down from my fortress on the hill and into town to watch the Independence Day parade that snaked around in a loop through San Bartolome’s approximately 12 streets. There were students from different schools in the area, some of them played music, some were in costumes, and some just walked. There were a few people on horses or in carriages, a couple of hoodlums riding bikes, and the mayor and some of her staff. It took about 45 minutes for the parade to repeat itself at which time I decided that once was plenty for me and headed to the plaza for snacks and to meet up with friends. During the time I was watching what seemed like all 7,000 occupants of San Bartolome, I began contemplating the idea of a parade. I get the idea, it’s just the execution I have a problem with. In theory, all of these kids get to walk around town and have their families wave at them as they pass and maybe give them a drink or take a picture if they have a camera. I’m sure they enjoy that. I also get the idea of civic pride, and in this case, national pride; I think such activities are a sign of a healthy culture and citizenry. Don’t get me wrong, these things are great, but I can’t help but think that we can come up with something better than the parade.
Many people may find this blasphemous seeing as I come from Portland and grew up less than a mile from the Rose Festival Parade route. But this is just something I’ve been holding inside for too long: I have never liked the Rose Festival Parade. Another girl in my group named Erin is from Beaverton and today we were talking about the Rose Festival Parade and she said that she remembers going but mostly just drawing with sidewalk chalk and buying worthless trinkets from the venders but she doesn’t really remember the parade. EXACTLY! The parade itself was the least exciting part of it all! I remember these things too. I also remember that everyone talked about it for two months ahead of time, it was always in the newspaper and on the news, the local high schools had their annual popularity contest, and, how did all of this culminate? We had to stand behind four rows of people and try to see old men wearing funny suits and wielding swords that they inexplicably never used, 30 high school bands all playing “Louie Louie,” and psychedelic, oversized cars erroneously called “floats” driving by at 2mph. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade, (pun absolutely intended) but I just never got the human fascination with parades. I mean, I didn’t even like them when I was a kid when I was their target audience.
Today as I watched the same banners go around in circles I couldn’t help but think that we can come up with something better than this. I feel like parades are like health care in America, it’s clearly a broken system but we’ve been going with it for so long and it is such a staple in or society that any thought of change is met with a slew of criticism. Can we please have a healthy debate about rethinking the parade? Of course, my solution is to just avoid them, but I would love to have some form of civic pride that I was actually proud of. If instead of the Rose Festival Parade we had the Rose Festival Air Guitar Competition I would absolutely go. How about the Rose Festival Voodoo Doughnuts Eating Competition? (2) I dare you to put your hand on the Bible and say that you wouldn’t go to the Rose Festival Running of the Elk and tell me what wouldn’t work about the Rose Festival Throw Rotten Vegetables At Hipsters. These are just a few of my stellar alternative ideas, I have more but I don’t think we would be able to come up with enough parachutes or chimpanzees.
Maybe I’m alone on this one, maybe I’m completely off base here. Maybe everyone else loves parades and my suggesting otherwise is kicking out their entire livelihood from underneath them. If that is the case, then I apologize. But, if I’m not alone, if there are others out there who have heard the all brass version of “Louie Louie” a few too many times, then join me. Speak out, let the world know: we put a man on the moon, we’ve been to the bottom of the ocean and the top of Everest, Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel and Bob Dylan recorded “Bringing it All Back Home,” for god’s sake we should be able come up with something better than the parade.
1. I’m sure this won’t be the last you will question the merits of the Guatemalan school system while reading this blog.
2. Might not work after the first couple people die of heart attacks, but I’m just trying to get the ball rolling here.