Parties, piñatas and penguins: Independence Day, Central America style

Published 1:42 PM EDT, Fri September 13, 2013

Story highlights

Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica celebrate on September 15

Mexico celebrate its Independence Day, sometimes referred to as El Grito, on September 16

iReporters from all six countries shared their best Independence photos

CNN —  

For one weekend in September more than 155 million people in six neighboring countries in one continent pull out all the stops to honor the birth of their nations.

Five Central American countries – Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica – kick off their Independence Day celebrations on September 15, the date when, in 1821, they declared independence from Spain, while the following day Mexico holds its own independence celebrations.

We asked people from each country to send in their best images from past and present Independence Day celebrations. From masked revelers in Guatemala to elaborately costumed dance troupes in Honduras, we received stunning images from nations proud to celebrate their beginnings.

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Like the best birthday celebrations, the events are marked with glorious parades, street parties, festivals and family gatherings.

TV producer Brad Cordeiro was in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, when he captured stunning images of young women in beautiful flowing blue dresses performing in a parade held for the country’s Independence Day.

“The feel of the parade was of a lot of proud parents watching their kids participate,” he said. “The celebration was a week long, and as San Juan del Sur is a resort town people from all over the country came to town, it felt like the whole country was there,” he said.

Sometimes the celebrations can provide the most eye-opening of visuals. In Guatemala City, anthropologist Lucas de Soto captured this image of a rather motley crew of soldiers, worker and, yes, a man dressed in a bird suit during the country’s celebrations in 2011.

“It’s … sort of a fun side to the military that they wanted to present with the festive atmosphere, despite how ambivalent the general public is about them,” he said. “They were dressing up as bears, and wrestlers, and handing out candy.”

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Elsewhere on the continent, in Honduras, Independence day for U.S. photographer Hunter Johnson means a chance to give the orphans who live in the homes his organization houses the opportunity to take part in the many parades held to honor the day.

His beautiful image captures several young girls from one of the organization’s centers proudly dressed in their dancing finery ahead of a parade in Talanga, Honduras.

“The parade I witnessed in Honduras was certainly simpler from a materialistic perspective, but it did not lack whatsoever in energy and passion among its participants,” he said.

“They were proud to don colorful outfits and march in unison as they honored their country in music and dance.”