Semana Santa

28 Apr

Semana Santa, Holy Week, is a big deal in Guatemala. The villages around Lago Atitlan, while filled with gringos, are very traditional and hold daily processions down the main streets multiple times a day throughout the week.

Since driving during that week is out of the question due to continuous processions and street closures, we stayed in San Juan La Laguna.

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On Good Friday, locals gathered around the center of town just after midnight. Throughout the night and into the morning, alfombras (carpets) of grasses, flowers, fruits, veggies, colored sawdust and sometimes candles are intricately created. People block off their alfombra in the street with markers and use stencils and paper drawings as a guide. The end results are a labor of love and truly a work of art.

We woke early and walked to town around 6am. Finishing touches were being put on the alfombras as Hani and I walked the almost empty streets, sidestepping the few drunks that were still (barely) standing from the night before. It was an unbelievable sight. Streets that were once filled with speeding tuktuks and rotten vegetables were expertly decorated for the holiday.

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seven deadly sins alfombra

seven deadly sins alfombra

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At 8am the procession from the church began. Shifts of smartly dressed men and traditionally clothed women carried huge floats depicting biblical scenes. And as they made their way sloooowly shuffling/side steeping down the church steps, the procession turned to the main street and trampled the alfombras. It killed me to see them destroyed! All the time and effort put into creating them and boom. A swirly mess.

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And just when you think you can capture the new beauty of a trampled mass of lemons and flowers, the cleaning crew is right behind the procession sweeping and raking up all the newly created garbage.

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The procession would stop every so often at set up stations of the cross where readers would chant in local dialect verses. It was awesome to observe such a solemn and beautiful religious experience. It was also pretty amazing to witness such a disorganized country have such orderly events.

The procession made it’s way in a circle through the main streets back into the church where it started from typically around noon, not because the path is long but because their steps are so deliberately slow and thoughtful. It really was a moving experience.

Later that same day, we took the motorcycle to San Juan, where Toby, Chloe, Erica and Sam met us to watch how that town prepared for their procession. Around 2 that afternoon, locals began their alfombras with the procession starting at 10pm. The alfombras here had much more intricate shading and details, even three dimensions. Because of this, when we left the town at 10, groups were still feverishly trying to finish their alfombras. Most spectators arrived once the sun went down, which is a shame because you can’t appreciate all the details in the dark. Nevertheless, it was a unique cultural experience.

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3 Responses to “Semana Santa”

  1. Ken higgins April 28, 2014 at 11:46 pm #

    Oh my lord!! These pictures are breath taking!!
    It’s Mary Gay & Ken. Your neighbors in Key West who live at the corner or Margaret & Eaton. We are always on the front porch. We’ve been following your travels from the beginning!! What an incredible experience!! I know our son (Bart) is SO envious!!
    Be safe as you continue….we will continue to follow Skyhorse!!
    Hugs,
    MG and K

  2. Sarah May 4, 2014 at 5:25 am #

    Hey neighbors it’s great to hear from you! Thanks for the kind words. We are glad you both enjoy the blog. We miss seeing and chatting with you guys.

    Cheers,

    Sarah & Hani

  3. toothontheloose May 7, 2014 at 7:59 am #

    Hey, those pictures look familiar! 😉 Did we see each other in San Juan too? I have been following along with your posts, and it’s fun to see another perspective of places I have visited at the same time. I hope you guys are having a blast. I’m currently at a Costa Coffee in England writing about Cafe Sky (sooo far behind in my blog!!!), where you and your blog will have a prominent shout-out.

    And Sarah, there is a local radio station here that you would absolutely love. I think that my best friend was grateful to leave her house today to go into labor because it meant that she wouldn’t have to listen to me breaking out into song constantly ;).

    Keep up the good work!

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