The last stop on our whirlwind tour of Guatemala was in Antigua. We were there for four days to enjoy the holy week processions. Antigua is the city that best exemplifies the Spanish colonial influence in the country. There are cobblestone streets, beautiful old buildings, and tons of churches. There was a large earthquake in 1773 that destroyed many of the old churches, but there are ruins scattered throughout the city.
Antigua has a tradition of having many holy week processions. Whole streets are closed down so that the people can make beautiful carpets in the middle of them. The carpets are made of sawdust and plants. As the processions go by, they walk right through the carpets, and there is a clean-up crew at the back of each procession to get the debris out of the street. After a procession, the people go out to make another carpet for the next procession. Carpet-making can take up to 10 hours, so they are working nearly constantly throughout the Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of holy week.
The processions themselves are also really gorgeous. On Thursday and Friday morning, the men are all in purple robes, and the processions include Jesus carrying the cross followed by Mary. The men carry Jesus, and the women carry Mary. The floats are gigantic and incredibly heavy, so many people participate. The largest one we saw was carried by 80 men. However, since the processions can last up to 10 hours, a single group only carries the float for a couple of blocks before they are switched out. The floats sway and move backwards in the procession to keep the motion constant.
On Friday afternoon and Saturday, the processions are a bit different. The men are all in black robes, instead of purple, and the float shows Jesus in a coffin. Mary still follows him in mourning. We were able to see two processions on Thursday (although one just happened to pass by the window of our restaurant), two on Friday, and one on Saturday. I was also stuck in traffic behind a procession on my way out of the city on Sunday. The whole celebration was really beautiful.
It was great to have Mom and Dad come to visit, and I can’t wait to see everyone else when I get home in June!
The pictures are of: people making a carpet, two of the carpets we saw, Mom and I in front of a volcano, men carrying Jesus, women carrying Mary, the float with Jesus in the coffin, the old cathedral in Antigua, a little boy in the procession, and Mom and Dad in front of Antigua.