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    Posted August 19, 2013 by
    Villa Nueva, Guatemala
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Central American Independence Day

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    Guatemalan Independence


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     David L Amsler took these photos of the Guatemalan Independence Day celebrations in Villa Nueva, a large town the boarders Guatemala City back in 2008 and 2009.

    The 57-year-old minister and missionary from Springfield, Missouri, has been living in Guatemala since 2008 working on various youth outreach programs.

    In one of these photos you can see David’s decorated car, a black Nissan Patrol, which ended up being the lead vehicle in that year’s local parade.

    “My wife and I were chaperones for the children and youth programs at Iglesia Vida. We had a large vehicle that the Pastor, Romeo Taracena, wanted to use as the lead vehicle. We had a roof rack that could accommodate three clowns on top to throw candy,” he said.

    According to Mr Amsler Villa Nueva is considered a red zone which means it has a high level of crime such as violence and robberies.

    This year he will celebrate the Independence Day in Jutiapa, in the eastern region of the country. “I try to observe, learn and participate in the local culture. I like to celebrate with my local friends. Photography gives me an opportunity to interact with their special day,” he said.

    Have a look at Mr Amsler’s photos from Guatemala and Costa Rica http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1023485
    - stinabacker, CNN iReport producer

    The Quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala. It is on the country flag, on their currency and on most government legal documents. It is a symbol of freedom because the bird will not live in captivity.

    One can sense that spirit of freedom in the Guatemalan Independence Day celebrations; many that are organized by various community organizations, schools and churches.

    The photos for this story are from Iglesia Vida (Life Church) in Villa Nueva, Guatemala. The church organized a community parade because they wanted to demonstrate their patriotism and love of country.

    It was an extremely moving experience to observe first hand Guatemalans celebrating their freedom as I had the honor of driving the lead vehicle in the parade. Following my decorated Nissan Patrol was a line of other cars garnished with balloons and streamers and a host of runners carrying flags or torches. There was also a large group of bicycles and motorcycles following. The local police helped barricade the route as the parade snaked its way through down as horned honked, whistles blew and people cheered.

    It was especially fun to see the children along the route enthusiastically waiting to see the parade and anxiously hoping to receive candy being thrown from the parade vehicles.

    The parade ended at Iglesia Vida with the presentation of the Guatemalan flag and a rousing chorus of the national hymn with several hundred people who packed the church.

    After a brief prayer for the nation the church offered a very typical buffet with tamales, crazy corn, tortillas, Rosa de Jamaica (a typical tea called Jamaican Rose) and a variety of other Guatemalan treats.
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