This vibrant celebration starts a day before the actual feast—on September 14th with "Antorcha de la Independencia"—a torch relay commemorating a historical event dating back to 1821 when María Dolores Bedoya ran across Guatemala's streets carrying a torch as a symbol of future freedom. Today 5 countries of Central America reenact the heroic deed. In Guatemala, the relay involves every region as the runners are cheered on by large crowds that gather along the route. The peak of the celebration falls on September 15th—the actual day of independence. The country is draped in blue-and-white, and vibrant patriotic parades take place in the streets. One interesting traditional element of the celebration is "La Conquista"—a dance that reenacts the conquest of the Mayans as dancers wear red wigs and masks. Other elements of celebration include fireworks, dancing, and feasting on traditional foods including iconic tamales, dobladas, and fried plantains.
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