School parades, flags, marimba music, and firework displays… it’s independence day in Guatemala! This heartfelt national holiday commemorates the historic moment when Guatemala declared independence from Spain.
In this post, I will share with you some interesting information on Guatemala Independence historical facts and how Guatemalans celebrate their Independence day so that you can join them on this special day if you happen to be there at that time.
A Brief History of Guatemalan Independence Day
Pedro de Alvarado was a Spanish conquistador and governor of Guatemala.
He began his conquest of Guatemala in 1523. This kicked off the colonial period of Spanish rule which lasted for 298 years. (Although it took 174 years to completely conquer the country.)
During the colonial era, Guatemala was part of a territory that included Chiapas Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.
The territory, collectively known as the “Viceroyalty of New Spain” became independent all at once, then later broke into the Central American countries we know today.
Things to do for Independence Day in Guatemala
There are lots of cool things to see and do in honor of Guatemala’s independence day and here is a list.
Independence day in Guatemala is a wonderful time to delve into the culture of this fabulous country in Central America. Visit the National Palace in zone one in Guatemala City for a free tour and an explanation of many patriotic images.
Other things to do include checking out traditional marimba routines and learning some customary dances, such as “El Son.”
Indulge in traditional food
Guatemala has hundreds of delicious typical dishes. What better day to enjoy them than on Día de la Independencia? Some foods to try include tamales, Kak ‘Ik (a delicious spicy soup from Alta Verapaz), chuchitos (similar to Mexican tamales), shucos (Guatemala’s answer to New York hot dogs), pepián (a saucy chicken dish), and of course, black beans and corn tortillas.
Run with the Independence Torch
One of the coolest things to do leading up to the 15th of September is to participate in an “antorcha.”This tradition dates back to 1959. It is enacted in memory of the horsemen who rode at breakneck speed for six days to carry the news of independence from Guatemala down to El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.
The Good News of Freedom from the Spanish Throne
Every year, groups of students from local schools all over Central America participate in this tradition (though they make the journey on foot, not on horseback).
Each group of students runs a certain distance, then passes off to the next and the next until the independence torch makes its way from Guatemala City all the way to Costa Rica.
Pretty cool, right? There are also thousands of smaller “antorchas” that take place throughout the whole country. These smaller antorchas generally begin in the afternoon of September 14th (though some groups start earlier if they have a long way to go).
Large crowds from different regions of Guatemala gather at the Obelisco in Guatemala City for the torch-lighting ceremony and other patriotic festivities. Once their torches are lit, they carry them back to their communities.
Patriotism abounds on Guatemalan Independence Day
Many groups run throughout the night to reach their communities on the 15th. They wear blue and white, paint their faces, and wave Guatemalan flags to show their national pride. They also blow whistles as expressions of joy.
These vibrant processions can be seen all across the country. Even if you don’t run with a torch yourself, be sure to watch them go by, or join the supporting crowds in tossing water balloons at the runners to refresh them.
What better way to join the Guatemalan independence day celebration than to purchase a flag? During the month of September, flags are everywhere. You can get a special white and blue Guatemalan flag for your car, your house, a flag pole, or to adorn yourself with super-hero style!
Join Flag Raising and Sing the National Anthem
Head to the central park in Guatemala City on September 14th to watch the Guatemalan army raise an enormous flag while firing twenty-one cannons.
Guatemalan’s are great at pomp and circumstance, so it’s sure to be a sight to see. The ritual will probably also include singing the National Anthem in a solemn and stirring ode to Guatemala.
Guatemalan’s LOVE fireworks. Join the fun by buying some yourself and helping paint the night sky in color and light.
Celebrating Independence day in Antigua Guatemala
If you plan to be in Antigua during this national holiday, go out at night on September 14th to watch the running of the “antorchas.” On the 15th, festoon yourself, your car, or your house with flags, then watch the school parades from the central park.
Celebrating Independence Day on Lake Atitlan
If you’ll be in Lake Atitlán, help celebrate the end of Spanish rule in Guatemala by buying a flag, eating traditional food, purchasing handicrafts in traditional Mayan designs, watching the parades, and enjoying some stunning fireworks from the lakeshore.
More pictures of Guatemala
More about Guatemala
- An essential guide to Semuc Champey, Guatemala – a spectacular natural monument
- Utopia Eco Hotel: your jungle retreat in Semuc Champey
- How to cross borders from San Cristobal to Guatemala
- 3 ways of crossing the border from Mexico to Guatemala: practical tips
- 15 awesome things to do in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala for a solo female traveler
- The 25 top things to do in Guatemala + useful practical tips
- 35 incredible things to do in Antigua Guatemala and surroundings + travel tips 
- How to get from Guatemala City to Antigua Guatemala
- The 36 best restaurants in Antigua Guatemala (and cafes)- A guide for every taste and budget
- How to buy a SIM Card in Guatemala in 2022 and which one!
About the Author
Hello there! This is Isabella, the author of this blog, and a cat lover. I am an Italian expatriate with a Mexican permanent Residence. After 7 years of living in Cancun, I have decided to leave my job and explore my beloved Mexico and the rest of this beautiful world, starting from South America, while sharing my travel stories and offering useful travel tips about traveling as a solo female traveler and digital nomad.