How Independence Day in Guatemala Is Celebrated + 6 Exciting Things to do

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.

Guatemala Flag Independence day in Guatemala

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.


Antigua guatemala church

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.

Cultural activities

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.”

Antigua Overview

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.

Chuchito Guatemala

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.

antigua city overview

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.

Guatemala flag

Purchase Flags

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.


Guatemala Firework

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

Lake Atitlan Guatemala

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

Here is a picture of me wearing my favorite camera bag while looking at the famous Arch in Antigua Guatemala
antigua chicken bus
Antigua Chicken Bus
Antigua ciudad vieja
Semuc Champey
Atitlan overview
Lake Atitlan

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