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For those of us of Central American origin, September 15 is remembered with much nostalgia and patriotic pride, as this day marks the annual celebration of Independence Day.  But this day is not celebrated with fireworks, barbecues and beer, as it’s done in North America.  Instead, all the schools get organized and grouped by areas and thousands of students (from Preschool to High School) take to the streets in every city, town and village in all the five Central American countries– Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.  We celebrate with military-style parades, marching down the streets, proud to show off each country’s flags, while being entertained along the way by the best marching bands and cheerleaders in every town and city.

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Signing of the Act of Independence

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Up until the 19th century, all Central American countries shared a similar history, all being a part of what was called The Kingdom of Guatemala– a shared history that began when the Spanish conquest took place upon the discovery of America in 1492.  After many revolts and independence movements that began at the beginning of the 19th Century, victory was finally reached when in 1821 “a congress of Central American Criollos (direct descendants of Spanish citizens but born in the Americas) declared their independence from Spain, effective on 15 September of that year. That date is still marked as the independence day by most Central American nations.”  Unlike most of the other countries in Latin America, independence from Spain was achieved in a relatively peaceful manner.

Since then, every year the commemoration of Central America’s freedom from Spain erupts in festivities throughout every corner of all five countries.  “Palillonas” or cheerleaders dress in colourful and elegant costumes and along with the schools’ marching bands showing off their musical prowess, they present very entertaining and intricate choreographies.  There is always a bit of competition, as each school tries to outdo all the others in the complexity of the choreographies and the music they play and in the entertainment value and the elegance and sophistication of the cheerleaders’ costumes.

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Photos Courtesy of DanCesar.com

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In many other places the smell of traditional foods fills the streets, there is music everywhere and each house and building is adorned with country flags that shine high and bright everywhere you look.  The festivities last pretty much all day and by the end all the students, who have been preparing for months prior to this important day, return to their homes exhausted but feeling proud to have been part of such an important celebration.  Here in Canada, we are lucky to celebrate not just on Canada Day, but many Latin Americans celebrate at home, whenever Independence Day falls in each country (September 16 in Mexico and September 18 in Chile, for instance) by gathering with their families and their own countrymen and countrywomen to celebrate just like they would back in their homeland, and to reminisce about the festivities they were a part of when they lived there.

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Photos Courtesy of DanCesar.com

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Photos Courtesy of DanCesar.com

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