Semana Santa in Guatemala

Semana Santa in Guatemala

April 14, 2011

Next week, Christian communities around the world will commemorate the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.  Throughout Latin America there will be plays, processions, and vigils.  But the most colorful, dramatic traditions can be found in Antigua, Guatemala.

Antigua lies just north and west of Guatemala City.  A  taxi or van ride from the Guatemala City airport will bring you to this beautiful old town, a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Antigua was once the capital of Guatemala under Spanish rule, as the cobblestone streets and beautiful colonial architecture of the central area will remind the visitor.

During Holy Week, the cobblestone streets are completely covered with beautiful, intricate carpets made entirely of flower petals, leaves, or brightly colored sawdust.  You will see patterns that reflect Christian stories, ancient Mayan designs, or modern patterns.  These lovely carpets are painstakingly made by the town residents, to cushion and glorify the paths of the daily processions though the streets.  Each carpet is the creation of the people residing in the surrounding houses.  The creation of the carpets is carefully timed, so that the carpet is completed just before a particular procession passes.  That way, the carpet is pristine and perfect for the holy procession.  If more than one procession goes down a particular street, the carpet will be remade for the next procession.

There are also beautiful carpets decorating the churches, honoring the various statues which will be brought out for the processions.  The carpets in the church may also include offerings of fruit, bread, and candles.

The processions themselves are as unique and beautiful as the carpets.  There are processions throughout the week, to replicate the final days of Christ.  Holy statues and sculptures are carried through the streets on the shoulders of the faithful, dressed in purple robes.  It is considered an act of piety, and an honor, to be among those carrying the statues in the holy processions.

The week continues, through the reenactment of Jesus’ trial, final procession through town, and a silent procession through the streets on Friday night.  After a somber Saturday, Easter morning is celebrated with joyous processions through the town, celebratory masses, and, of course, lots of fireworks.

Antigua’s Holy Week is justly famous, so anyone interested in attending should plan well in advance.  Hotels book up months in advance.  But with a bit of planning, this makes a unique and memorable way to commemorate Easter.


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