I push the bicycle through streets and follow the distant sound of music. Soon I reach the central square where loudspeakers are blasting live Marimba music. In front of me are the backs of hundreds of people who are looking over each other’s shoulders. Unable to see anything, I park my bicycle on the side and push through the crowd, repeating the mantra of “permiso, permiso” (excuse me, excuse me).
In the middle, I see dozens of men, women and children wearing heavy costumes and exuberant masks dancing in sync what looks like a war dance.
On the other side, a street in front of the church is covered with thick layer of sand. A huge crowd is waiting on both sides of the street in anticipation. Women are dressed in traditional costumes. Men are wearing jeans, leather boots and large Mexican hats.
They are carrying their children on their shoulders. Mothers are nursing their babies in their arms but their eyes are completely glued to the street. People of all ages are licking 3 Quetzal colourful cone ice cream helado. I look around in the sea of crowd. Not a single gringo to be seen.
A man on the stage makes an announcement on the speaker. All the heads turn towards the church. A wave of horsemen appear. Their horses, full of energy, galloping, hair flying in the air; the riders, whipping them to make them run even faster.
As this happens, a shaft of light pierces through the clouds and shines on the street creating a dramatic lighting. The horses run in circles. A horse stops in the middle, the horseman yells at him, the horse whinnies and stands on his hind legs and holds the posture for a few moments. Everyone gasps at the sight.
This is a small town in the Guatemalan Highlands, called ‘Tactic’ and this horse riding event is part of the two-day “Feria de Tactic” exhibition. A total of 170 horses took part in the show. Men, women and even children riders displayed their equestrian skills. It was a show of equestrianism – the horses showed their impulsion, collection, reining and obedience to their riders.
I happened to see the event by accident. Yesterday I was cycling on my way to Cobán when I saw several horses on the back of trucks parked at a gas station, just before Tactic. I stopped and asked one of the drivers whether he had brought them to sell in the market. He told me that it was an annual exhibition in the city. When I heard this, I went to check it out and ended up spending about 5 hours there. There were many religious and cultural events taking place in the city, and the main event – where participants from all over Guatemala came to take part was the horse riding exhibition. The action was happening at a fast pace.
If you blinked, you’d miss something. I was right in the middle of it all photographing the horses, and came very close to getting trampled by them. I took about 2000 pictures during this event that lasted for about 2-3 hours.