Dear Mother…Semana Santa

I decided to write this blog post as a letter to make it more personable. It’s a letter to you, Mother, so I hope you don’t mind that friends and strangers will be reading it.

Guatemalans commemorate Semana Santa (Holy Week) during the week that leads up to Easter. These days, as you well know, mark the last days of Jesus Christ on earth in His human form. Although there are Protestant, Evangelical, Mayan, and other religions here, the Catholic church continues to dominate Guatemalan cultural traditions as it has for centuries since the conquest of the Americas.

I have thought about my Catholic upbringing over and over throughout my years. I remember our meatless meal Fridays and the three hours of silence that we were supposed to observe on Good Friday. That seemed so hard to do as a child but now, as an adult, I can easily spend a whole day in silence although it would be hard not to check my phone texts. You left the Catholic church for a better fit for you, but I feel this unrelenting connection to the Catholic church for good or for bad. And it’s definitely been bad—the church, that is. I deplore the criminal actions and patriarchy of the Catholic Church. But I have never faltered in my love for the sacred figures I have come to know through the church.

Today is Good Friday and the streets are full of vibrant alfombras—carpets of colored sawdust, pine needles, flowers, and sometimes fruit. Folks prepared the carpets late last night, right after a heavy rainstorm. I was able to sit with six indigenous women and help them prepare bundles of pine needles. They welcomed me into their circle with big smiles. I am usually quiet with new people but they thought I was a comedian—they laughed every time I tried to speak Spanish or K’iche.

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A little later I walked over to the main cathedral in the town plaza to sit for a while during their overnight velación. I was reminded of my friends, Endy Bernal, Marylou Valencia, Eva Sandoval, and Maria Figueroa who would lead overnight ceremonies as Danzantes Aztecas. Their level of discipline helped them dance under the hot sun on grass or cement for hours and hours. [photo below: a special altar scene for Good Friday]

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This morning I woke up early to photograph the alfombras and procession. Here are a few photographs that need no commentary.

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After photographing a few of the alfombras, I went to the church but the plaza was packed with people waiting for the large pasos to start the procession. The pasos are huge altars, like parade floats. They must weigh over a ton and require rows of costeleros, men and women that carry them on their shoulders. It’s dramatic to see the paso when it first appears and descends the steps of the church.

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And because I like black and white so much…

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The procession wound it’s way through the streets walking over the alfombras which were quickly swept up into garbage bags after the procession had passed. I stepped out of the procession to walk home and write this blog post for you. I thank you and Michael for this new camera. I’m so happy that I can get these long and close-up shots now. I hope that you enjoy them.

I know that your every day is filled with prayers. You are the holiest person I know, Mother. I too, pray for your well being and send you love, love, love.

Eloisa

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