An Open Letter To The Guatemalans Setting Off Fireworks Outside My Door Every Morning At 4 A.M.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Guatemala has a loud tradition of setting off firecrackers early in the morning to celebrate a birthday. Contributor Luke Maguire Armstrong has a tradition of sleeping in the early-morning hours.

Dear Firecracker-Loving Guatemalans,

Let me begin by assuring you that I am no hater of firecrackers. When I was a young boy I fondly remember how I waited longingly for the Fourth of July. I would gleefully spend the paper route money I had been saving all summer on as many fireworks as my demurring mother would allow. Julys in my childhood were generally filled with joyous days spent seeding ant hills with little bombs. (Ants, I’m sorry. I was young. I’ve changed. Please stop living in my kitchen.)

So, it’s not that I hate fireworks. I just feel all good things should be enjoyed in moderation. The beauty of our Independence Day is that it comes only once a year. It does not come every morning at 4 a.m. Your tradition of waking up a family member celebrating a birthday by creating a war zone-like atmosphere seems to me to be at times a little loco. It actually seems a lot loco. It seems locisimo. Frankly, no one wants to be woken up to the sounds of World War II outside their bedroom.

I like to sleep. And I have trouble believing that I have a neighbor with a birthday every morning. Because it does seems like every morning bombs are bursting. Who are you people? Who are these people who are setting alarms every morning at 4a.m. to light off firecrackers? If you’re an early riser, fine, but please allow us with normal hours the pleasure of sleep.

I remember the incident when the firecrackers sounded so close that it felt like someone had set fireworks off inside my house. Imagine my surprise when I looked and saw that, yes, someone had indeed thrown a string of firecrackers into my open window. I am still not sure what message was being communicated by this action. It made me feel not so welcome in your country and I consider myself a good neighbor. Case in point is that I am one of the few people in the neighborhood who does not urinate on other people’s homes. I also remind you that if you read the package firecrackers come in, it is clearly indicated that they are not to be used indoors.

And to the person who threw a string of firecrackers at my motorcycle as it drove past a crowd, you got me. You can now go brag to your friends about how you scared the living shitepokes* out of the gringo.

In conclusion, and in the spirit of cultural understanding, I will not ask that you stop enjoying firecrackers all together. But I would appreciate it if you stopped throwing them into my window. And I would like to recommend investing some of the money set aside for firecrackers on other things such as food for the millions of starving children here.

Muchas gracias,

The Gringo

*shitepoke- |? sh ?t?p?k |noun informal, any of a number of birds of the heron family.

By Luke Armstrong


About the Author

LukeArmstrongLuke Maguire Armstrong lives in Guatemala directing the humanitarian aid organization, Nuestros Ahijados. His book of poetry, iPoems for the Dolphins to Click Home About (available for sale on is especially enjoyed by people who “don’t read poetry.” (@lukespartacus)

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