Walkabout: Travel Life and Photographs

Our Last Week In the Old City

April 11, 2007

We had the chance to witness many strong traditions during Semana Santa in Antigua (Easter Week). During this Holiday the people of Guatemala flock to Antigua to participate in processions that recreate the sentencing, death, and resurrection of Christ. The main religion of Guatemala is Catholicism and many Guatemaltecos have participated in this holy week for generations. The processions involve many people. Both women and men carry a float or “Andaria” throughout the streets of Antigua. The Andas are massive with flowers, angels, and statues of Jesus or Mary on top. With 40 people on each side of the Anda it sways down the street with a band playing a slow sad march. These processions last all day and into the night. The men wear purple robes; some carry incense, and carry Jesus. The women wear black and white with veils, and carry Mary. There is also a children’s procession, with a smaller float. The significance of the procession is to carry the pain that Jesus Christ carried on his way to his crucifixion. Some carry the Anda for penance, others for tradition. Every few blocks new carriers switch with the others and the procession continues at a steady crawl. Andy and I witnessed many of these processions. It was quite an amazing experience. The biggest ones were on Thursday and Friday. The recreation of the sentencing was a group of men dressed as Romans on horseback that went to several corners of the city and read out loud the sentencing of Christ. At 5am the procession of the death of Christ began. Smoke from the incense filled the street along with people. The next few days there were several other processions that represented the mourning for the death of Christ and then his Resurrection on Easter Sunday. The most important day was Friday. Guatemaltecos are not supposed to work for it is a day of rest and mourning for Christ.

Another tradition that is very unique to Antigua is the making of Alfombras. Alfombras are carpets that people make in the streets as an offering to Christ. These pieces of art are made out of flowers, fruit, and colored sawdust. Andy and I had the chance to help make 2 out of flowers. Even families that don’t have much money still partake in the alfombras. My host mom told me it is a sacrifice that people are willing to make for Dios (God). People start making alfombras in almost every street in Antigua where the procession is going to pass. This all began on Thursday night and continued through the night until the procession passed by in the morning on Friday. Families worked for hours on these beautiful, detailed carpets. When the procession came the alfombras were destroyed as the Anda was carried past. People would follow and pick up the flowers and then men with shovels, a backhoe and a truck close behind to pick up what was left of the mangled alfombras. It was amazing the amount of time and work the people poured into these works of art only to see they destroyed the next day. To many that fact didn’t matter because it was an offering to Christ. After staying up all night making alfombras, visiting churches, walking around the city to see other alfombras, we saw the procession and went to bed. I have to admire this tradition and the people who believe so strongly in what they stand for.

Once the last procession was over on Sunday Antigua returned to normal. We spent our last days studying, walking, and saying goodbye to the friends we met, spent time with, and worked with during our journey in Guatemala. I was happy to find out that my work is being and will be continued at the library in Pedro Molina. Andy and I received an Intermediate Advanced score on our Spanish exam! Que Bueno! Now we are waiting in the Airport in Guatemala City for our flight to Costa Rica where more adventures are waiting. It was sad to say goodbye to the old city and everything that is familiar about it, but I have the feeling that someday I will see her again.