Friday, August 19, 2016

Crazy Colombian Celebrations

Being a student in Colombia has to be one of the best and easiest things in the world. This country has the most public holidays in the world, which leads to a plethora of three-day weekends and short school weeks. Outside of that, there are always random assemblies, "acto cívicos", and other happenings that make a full, 5-day week in which each class meets as scheduled a rarity. I'm pretty sure that during my time here in Repelón, we have had maybe ONE week in which every class met for the scheduled time. Consistency isn't one of the strong suits of the Colombian coast, to say the least.

Two weeks ago, my school, I.E. John F. Kennedy (IEJFK) partnered up with another school in town, I.E. Maria Immaculada (IEMI) to celebrate the Battle of Boyacá. This battle, which was fought on August 7, 1819, was the difinitive battle that gave Colombia its independence from Spain. To celebrate this monumental day in Colombian history, we paraded through town on our way to one of the baseball stadiums in town. This parade literally stopped traffic as we made our way through town on the one and only highway that makes its way through town. When we reached the plaza, we met up with the students and teachers from IEMI and made our way to the baseball stadium.

The first part of the day was spent watching various performances from both schools. Highlights included IEMI students dressing up like the main commanders of the battle, students showcasing the cumbia, mapale, and the son de negros dances, a group of students performing a rap, and a performance by the municipal student band. This group featured a few of my students from my school, which was really cool to see them involved in something outside of school. Below are pictures highlighting these performances.

However, for me, the ultimate highlight of the day was what happened after these performances. Here in Colombia, as I'm sure I've eluded to in the past, soccer is king. Life stops when both Junior (the local soccer team) and the national team play. Unfortunately, this only happens with the men's teams. The women's national team definitely does not garner as much attention country wide. In general, opportunities for women and girls, including sports, are fairly limited, as teenage pregnancy is an issue many of these small pueblos face. So it was a breath of fresh air when a softball game between the 10th graders from IEJFK and IEMI was held to end the celebration. I was so impressed and blown away by the amount of support that the other teachers and students gave the girls as they gave their all on the field and at the plate.

While there is still a long way to go to achieve gender equality here in Colombia, in my opinion, this game was definitely a step in the right direction. Instead of featuring soccer and putting the spotlight on the boys, as is so often done, these schools chose to feature the female athletes of their schools. Here's to future "days off" that in turn continue to empower and give the girls of this pueblo a chance to shine and showcase their talents.

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