April 01, 2010

OAT Guatemala: Santa Semana Holy Week Processions

We were fortunate to be in Guatemala during the Santa Semana Holy Week processions and we watched as many as we could.  In 1543, the first religious procession in Guatemala was modelled after the processions in Spain.  The Maya have incorporated their own beliefs, aspects of Catholicism, and other spiritual practices. The processions start and finish at a church.

Although smaller processions start on Ash Wednesday, the important processions follow this schedule during Holy Week (www.travelyucatan.com/maya/mayan_holy_week_2006.php)

Palm Sunday [Purple]: Day Jesus arrived in Jerusalem.
Holy Thursday [Purple]: Last Supper
Good Friday [Purple]: Jesus' crucifixion, performed in 14 stations
Holy Saturday [Black]: Loneliness of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Easter Sunday [Traditional Mayan]: Resurrection of the Christ.

We saw elaborate "carpets" (alfombras) being made from colored sawdust, flowers, fruits, vegetables, and pine needles.  Then, hundreds of people with expressions of suffering or rapture slowly carried a "float" (anda) that looks like a casket with holy figures on top.  A float literally weighs tons and it takes great coordination not to drop it.  As soon as the float passes, a cleanup crew rapidly sweeps up and carries away the remains of beautiful carpets.

Thu 04-01-10 Guatemala City

Ivania gets directions to the Processions
Even the dogs know to wear Purple
Fri 04-02-10 Procession outside Guatemala City

Sat 04-03-10 Creating Sawdust Alfombras in San Antonio Palopa on Lake Atitlan

Sat 04-03-10 Santiago on Lake Atitlan Procession
We waited 2 1/2 hours but others waited longer
The alfombras were amazing
The stairs were treacherous.  Time and again the float would appear but its carriers would then scurry back into the church.  Finally, they made it out of the church and safely down the stairs.
We would have liked to see the malevolent Mayan deity Maximon in procession but he wasn't scheduled until much, much later. 
Sun 04-04-10 Easter Sunday Procession in Antigua
More relaxed dress code

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