Spontaneous dancing
category: Jims Guatemala


We were in Santa Eulalia the other day to get groceries and check the post office. More and more frequently when we’re in town, we have the happy accident of bumping into people we know. Last weekend, as we passed through the central square, we saw Nas Palas and much of his family relaxing on the low wall near the fountain. They were watching the conquistador dancers, who for some reason we never did figure out, were having an encore performance after their big show in February.

ruby_nasSM.jpgIt’s always nice to hang out with Nas, so we sat down next to him to watch the dancers. People kept passing and greeting us… everyone knows Nas, but now people greet Emily and me as well. This seems to make Nas happy, like we’ve finally been accepted by the community. After only a minute or two, one of the dancers came up to me and shook my hand. “That must be Pascual”, Emily said, putting the clues together and saving me from embarrassment. She remembered that he is involved in the dance troupe, and he’s a REALLY short guy.

pascual_danceSM.jpg“I didn’t recognize you with the mask,” I shouted over the din of the marimba. “You look very gringo today!”

The dance continued for quite a while, and we sat and enjoyed it. The weather was great, we were among friends, and Nas was in a talkative mood. He started explaining that each of the different dancing characters has a certain song that represents them, and when it plays, they become the focus of the dance. There’s one for the Conqueror, the Mexican, the Bull, the Jaguar, and so forth.

I am a big fan of the Bull. He’s are like the clown of the show; he engages in mock bullfights, chases the other characters, and so forth. But he also harasses passers-by, charging them and playing pranks. Since we were in the middle of the town square on market day, there were a lot of people passing through, many of whom fell afoul of the Bull’s mischief.

At one point, a really drunk old man staggered into the square. He seemed to be really enjoying himself, swaying back and forth, clapping his hands to the wrong beat, and gawking glassy-eyed at the various dancers. The Bull ran right up and grabbed his cowboy hat. The old man looked momentarily dismayed, but was so drunk he couldn’t do anything except look sad that he’d lost his precious hat. The bull taunted him with it for a bit, then ran over and stuck it on my head.


GOOD TIMES! This dance is ON! I always wanted to party with those guys, and I’d just been invited. And as luck would have it, I was even wearing my capishay. I sprung into action, busting out my highly-polished marimba dancing moves. This was a big hit with the crowd, who clapped and cheered. Even the drunk guy got excited when he realized that the GRINGO was dancing with his hat.

A few minutes of foolishness, and I decided I’d better return the hat. The drunk old man was so overjoyed to have his hat back that he nearly broke into tears. Instead, he gave me a big, whisky-reeking hug followed by a sloppy wet kiss on the neck. I fear he was aiming for my face, but he was too short make it happen.

Posted by: jfanjoy