‘Feria’ is a time when Guatemalans and visitors alike come to Panajachel to celebrate and enjoy the gorgeous scenery. Some come to enjoy Lake Atitlan, and others find it a great opportunity to sell their goods at market. It is an exciting time for locals and schools let out when the fair takes over the town. There are performers dressed in costume, carnival rides, fireworks, parades, and even religious rituals performed in front of the Catholic church in honor of St. Francis of Assisi.
As Catholocism began to merge with the Maya culture and religion, many of the towns in Guatemala were renamed after the different Saints. Panajachel became ‘San Francisco de Panajachel.’ Saint Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of Pana. Over 300 towns have ‘ferias’ or festivals to celebrate the Saint who watches over their town, each with a different character. Some of the festivities in Panajachel’s feria include parade processions of the statues of St. Francis and his helper saints. Most of these processions, along with folkloric dances, concerts, performances, and other religious ceremonies are held in the plaza directly in front of the Catholic church. Along with the religious aspect, there are many other activities to celebrate during the festival. There are rides, fireworks, sporting events, dances, parties, and a beauty contest, which are very popular among the Guatemalan people. They beauty contestants are judged on not only their beauty, but their knowledge of Guatemalan culture and Mayan traditions.