San Juan del Obispo Guatemala, Bombas
Yolkobsens were slapping their brain cradles hard after their first visit to San Juan del Obispo Guatemala because we left without one of its signature products: whalin’ big firecrackers, better known as bombas.
Just 20 minutes south and uphill from Antigua Guatemala, this pueblo, with a million dollar view is the site of the old bishop’s summer palace. It’s also famous for a number of outstanding accomplishments, such as: excellent, dark, untempered chocolate and other dulces tipos. We sampled all of that the first time we went there. But we foolishly neglected to check out the recreational explosives for which this highland village is equally celebrated.
In fact, during our first visit the gentle nun who guided us through the bishop’s palace showed us large pictures of the pueblo’s master accomplishments, including the firecracker bull, a.k.a. El Torito. El Torito is a contraption with painted baby bull’s face and frame onto which gun powder fueled rockets are strapped. During a festival day in these parts of Guatemala, a happy volunteer will get into the frame and run about the crowd as the rockets shoot fire, light and a high decibel rating into its immediate vicinity. The El Torito rockets are always a crowd pleaser, but we were after bigger game.
During this visit, Mr. Y wanted to collect a personal arsenal of madcap bomba firecrackers, the kind that set off car alarms and howling dogs. These are the ones that shake up the living and worry the dead. The bombas, the ones with an unholy amount of gun powder, are usually set off by church members here in Antigua Guatemala. Launches may occur on their saint’s day or at Christmas and New Year‘s. Secular blasters also get into the act, so you can expect a lot of these between the first of December and Epiphany in January. Also, they go off intermittently throughout the rest of the year with no warning or consideration for the easily startled.
No churchman, Mr. Y just likes to set of big fun time bombas while I video his pyro efforts. It’s a fetish I can live with. So we headed back to Guatemala’s bomba town and like dunces started looking for the big and obvious firecracker emporium. With no luck, of course.
Finally we went to the police station where we asked in creaky Spanish where the best place to buy mega firecrackers was. They were very agreeable and gave us directions, with one pointing one way and the other in the opposite. And in the typical Guatemala fashion, we had to stop and ask several more sets of kindly people where the bomb factory was. No one was surprised by the question, though we did garner smiles from one and all along the hunt.
We were told to keep climbing arriba, arriba, up,up, which we did until we came to la fabrica at the end of a dusty and steep path. Here we were greeted by a gracious young man who’s hands were sifting through a large pile of gray black gun powder. We tried to explain what we wanted. He shook the powder off his hands and gave them a wash before he took us to a well organized shed where he pulled out a dozen baked potato shaped torpedoes. For only 150 Q (about $19 US), you could walk away with a dozen of these gems. These bombas had fuses on them that are more than a meter long.
There was only one problem with these bombas; you need a heavy metal launcher, one with a pipe welded to a sturdy base. The bombas go inside, you light the tendrilling fuse, and then run like a jack rabbit. We were not up for buying this bomba launcher so we left sadly and with many thanks for the warm reception we had received from the hospitable firecracker and bomba makers.
On our way out, though, our efforts were delightfully rewarded by the sight of at least 25 El Torito frames hanging neatly in their place, waiting for the next festival in which to do their star turn with bombas and firecrackers from San Juan del Obispo Guatemala.