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January 5, 2012

Viva la Revolucion!

I awoke a little after 6 a.m. to a bang. .... the volcano? .... a gunshot? ...

and I did what any good budding journalist would do. It's innate. It runs in my blood. What wasn't already there has been pumped in through three semesters of multiple journalism classes. I got up, threw on some clothes, grabbed my camera and a notebook and ran to the street to check it out.

OR, I hoped it would go way and went back to sleep.

Apparently, journalism doesn't run through my veins. But a love for sleep and for being snug in bed does. Many of you already know this about me. Apparently these things don't change just by matriculating.

Actually, I woke up even earlier, to the sound of what I think was a recorded song about la virgen. That went away. The bangs didn't, at least not right away. I was driven to sit up in bed and peer outside--I had switched to a bed right by the window--but couldn't see anything of interest, so lied right back down.

It did occur to me what the sound might be, after continued listening: Fireworks. More like firecrackers, a single burst, like a bottle rocket. the bangs continued throughout the next couple hours, accompanied at times by what sounded to be a band, playing the same song periodically. What I really wanted to know was: Who won the revolution? And then, secondarily--what revolution?

When I did get up, shower, and dress, I ran upstairs--suddenly with urgency--to the terrace restaurant to ask what the fuss was all about. Fortunately, it was nothing relevant to my project.

Or... it was the beginning of a day-long celebration to commemorate the return to Banos. I had no idea. Banos was evacuated in October of 1999, when the volcano awoke into its current eruption phase. This I knew. The evacuees, with the help of neighboring communities (many of which suffered economically from the evacuation) forced re-entry of the town, guarded by the military, on--as it turns out--January 5th.

This year marks the first year of the 5th of January as a city-wide civic day. I spoke later with the mayor, Jose Luis Freire, about it. It's not a vacation day, he said. It's still a work day. It's still a school day. It's a day of mandatory civic engagement.

So, I missed the 6 a.m. disparos (shots), but I had a very full day ahead of me of myriad other events.

There was the parade at 10 a.m.

And the panels of newspaper coverage and student essays set up outside the town hall.

The children who wrote many of these essays were not yet alive during the evacuation, which was 12 years ago. The mayor's idea is to involve the children to reinforce the community's collective memory of what it is to be forced to leave a home and what it is to live with an active volcano.

A two-hour radio program in the early afternoon featured interviews about what the evacuation and the re-entry was like for both the people who lived it and the people who covered it in the media.

At 2 p.m., there was a caminata from Los Pajaros. I took this to mean there was a march from a landmark, a statue where there were two birds and where as of the eruption of August 2006 there is now just one, to the town, commemorating and perhaps somewhat re-enacting the forceful re-entry to Banos.

[Boarding free transport to la caminata.]

Instead, it was a procession with La Virgen de Agua Santa (The Virgin of Holy Water) from a church somewhere closer than Los Pajaros to the church of Banos, ending in a special mass. Which is not surprising, in hindsight. Coincidentally, the mayor is planning on making next year's caminata into something almost exactly matching what I had thought I was going to attend.

All day, bands were playing, and all day, periodically, single firecrackers were shot into the air.

The long day ended with a full fireworks display, propelled into a lightly rainy night. I watched the end from under an umbrella on the hostel terrace. The town was dark, and quiet, and the bands were done.

I was overwhelmed by stories. Stories, stories, stories! How could I, can I, every do any of this any justice?

Posted by beth at January 5, 2012 11:47 PM

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