Title: Semana Santa -Holy Week Location: Antigua, Guatemala
Antigua, Guatemala is in the throes of preparing for Semana Santa. It is as if the entire city is planning one HUGE surprise party for about a million visitors who are expected to attend. The pre- Holy week processions have already begun. Alfombras are being made in the streets. These are either very simple arrangements made out of pine needles and flowers or in one case pine needles and hundreds of thousands of tiny pieces of foil from used potato chip and snack food bags. Or elaborately planned and executed paintings made from colored sawdust that stretch for a hunded feet. It doesn't seem to make any difference how big the WOW! factor is. Everyone just seems to appreciate the effort. Plans for the carpets are kept secret and near repeated from year to the next. Sometimes there is a theme but often it is anything that the groups of 'hermanidads' or brotherhood dreams up.
Last Sunday night was an examle. Sam and I heard band music. It is very solemn and close to funeral. We went to the corner of our street, which was already crowded with viewers. A few feet to the right in the middle of the street where the procession was soon to pass, was an older woman strewing shiny confetti like pieces from a carton box. The procession was nearing. The first boys and men in their purple robes were passing. I said to Val that maybe the woman could use some help. So we went and offered to throw the stuff on the street. When I turned around another older woman was standing there. We looked at each other in amazement. It was Ekita, one of the Delta Kappa Gamma women here in Antigua! Her sister, Monique was the one with the confetti. We hugged and expressed our amazement at finding each other. By this time the boys with the incense were heading our way and we had to get out of the middle of the street. We stood where they told us to stand and watched as the huge float went by on the shoulders of about 60 men. A smaller float of Mary was carried by about 40 teenage girls. I continue to marvel at how they can do this most difficult job- I've been told that each person carries a 70 pound load- and the girls are often wearing high heels. Keep in mind this is in the dark on cobble stone streets with holes and crevices.
After the procession passed we were invited to see Ekita's house, where we got the chance to practice our new Spanish skills from the Immersion classes we have been taking. We had to go through a shop where women were making the purple robes that the marchers wear. Upstairs was a large casa with at least 6 bedrooms, living rooms, dining room, an office and several others we didn't see. In the center were gardens and a patio. From the street it appears like nothing as do most of the houses in colonial towns but once the large wooden doors are opened a new world exists.
The excitement is building, as this Sunday is one of the biggest processions. Keep in mind these circulate all throughout the city and often last from 12 - 20 hours. The show is amazing. People throughout the city on every street that the procession passes are involved. It is certainly something that anyone who loves to travel and experience local culture should put on their list of 'must dos'!.
I am so lucky to be here!!!