Firecracker Moments

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Quiet as thieves, Diego and I slipped unnoticed from the boisterous dining room full of clinking glasses and roaring parents into the warm Guatemalan night. It was the middle of the dry season but the air was heavy with the smell of sulfur. Snippets of conversation and laughter escaped over the high walls and barbed wire that surrounded the houses of our neighbors. Pushing our way through a stand of banana trees, we arrived at the edge of the canyon. Fireworks streaked the night sky in every direction, illuminating the villages below. With each passing minute, their intensity increased, reminding us that midnight was almost upon us.

As we raced back to Diego’s house, partygoers from the whole neighborhood came pouring out of their houses. Our families joined them in lining the streets with boxes of Roman candles and rockets, and outrageously long strands of Chinese firecrackers. Neighbors emerged from behind their walls and joined us in celebration, all of us merging into one great street party.

The countdown to midnight began. Five. Four. Tres! Dos! Uno! The night erupted in color with thousands of explosions. A deafening roar drowned out our shouts of Feliz Navidad. Shreds of firecracker paper rained down on us as we...

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