Thursday, April 16, 2009
Holy Week, Batman!!
Whilst all of you were gorging on candy and spinning tales to small children of human sized bunnies that bring said candy late at night, here in Guatemala, Easter is a bit different. And yes, that is a fake dead Jesus to our left here being carried on the shoulders of Guatemalans.
The week leading up to the Easter holiday is called Semana Santa(Week of Saints), and is without a doubt, the largest holiday of the year. Every Guatemalan takes the week off and our town is invaded by folks from the city(welcomed with a grain of salt and a forced smile). Guatemala also boasts the largest celebrations of Semana Santa in world, the most grandiose being in Antigua.
Without going into too much detail, every single town has processions starting on Thursday before Easter, multiple times a day, until Sunday morning when Jesus is finally risen.
The processions are done only by the Catholics, the Evangelicals seem to think carrying heavy things on their shoulders for hours is unecessary. Above is a picture of a pre-procession procession, with the Mayan ladies carrying baskets of fruit used to later decorate the town for the larger processions. The photo on the right above is of an alfombra. An alfombra is a "carpet" made in the streets of colored sawdust, pine needles, flower petals and the like. The alfombra pictured here is one that was in San Pedro last year and does not hold a flame to the amazing detail put into the alfombras in other towns and would not even be considered an alfombra by Antigua standards. I do what I can here, the rest is up to your imagination and to the wonderful world of Google images.
So in short, these processions involve hours of the slowest marching one has ever seen whilst groups of Mayans carry huge and heavy displays of Jesus on their shoulders in order to feel some of the suffering they believe Christ may have felt during his ordeal all those years ago. The alfombras are made in the streets in order to be marched/walked over, ultimately being destroyed.
A bit loco, I know. However it is quite a sight to see if you have the ability to watch the slowest parade of all time, more than one time a day for more than one day. Rumor has it there was a procession in Antigua this year that lasted for fourteen hours. These Guatemalans are dedicated to suffering.
Along with all the carrying of things, there are many "costumes" as well, pictured below. What the significance of all this is remains a mystery to me. But all in all, a very interesting and different tradition than all of our candy laden holidays in the states. Imagine a religious holiday still holding its religious significance, mind blowing. I´d rather eat candy.