Before I let it go any longer, I want to write about Semana Santa in my town. It was in March (and now it’s already June). It was a vacation week for me and I wanted to travel but I had not planned it properly. Whenever we take off for even one night it requires advanced permission requests from our local supervisor and our PC program manager; hotel and shuttle reservations; notifying PC Whereabouts and hand washing enough clothes to pack. I was still green with that whole process so I blew my chances to leave. But wouldn’t you know it, staying home was a surprise gift because the processions here were wonderful. During the weeks leading up to Pascua Resurrección (Easter), Catholics in Guatemala have many processions, especially on Friday evenings and the last two days before Easter.
There is a huge cathedral which sits in the main plaza, across from the municipal offices. In the weeks preceding Easter, the eyes of most of the religious statues inside the cathedral were covered with purple cloth. Most churches in fact, were adorned in purple drapes. Purple was the color of the robe placed on Jesus before they crowned his head with a wreath of thorns and gave him the cross to bear.
Below, Mother Mary wears traje (traditional Mayan clothes) and beads.
Desfile, means procession. Some desfiles were small with groups from particular communities and some were huge, as in the ones on the weekend of Pascua.
Below: On several occasions, the streets were lined with alfombras (carpets) made of flowers, pine needles and colored sawdust and fruits. The religious clergy and any andas (floats) walk along the alfombras. After the processions, they are quickly swept away by home and business owners. The alfombras were typically made in the evenings for the next day’s procession. Traffic was detoured from these streets (this is the town’s main street).
Above, the photos were taken at night when the alfombras were being made. Below, is the beginning of the desfile (procession).
The cathedral also has a smaller chapel which was used for this mass pictured below. This mass was in K’iche. When I stumbled upon it, I was overwhelmed with it’s beauty which my camera failed to capture. Believe me, it was extraordinary. The altar was in the shape of a mountain, covered with candles and figurines. People knelt and sometimes stood on the cement floors for hours; there were no pews or cushions for knees.
On the day before Easter, there were desfiles in which a huge anda (float) was carried by two rows of men carrying Jesus and a second anda (of slightly lesser size) carrying Mother Mary, was carried by two rows of women. Every ten minutes or so, there was a change in the float bearers. The changes were swift and efficient with barely a pause in the procession.
As the andas entered the main plaza, they wound their way through the crowd and into the church.
I did not photograph inside the church after each procession because it was impossible to see anything but hundreds of heads. Here is one image to show you what I mean.
Semana Santa processions and devotional masses take place throughout Guatemala! It is a beautiful thing to witness and experience.