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Semana Santa

Guatemala Journal
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 semana santa

1 abril
For several weeks between Lent and Easter, there are processions in Antigua and other Guatemalan towns. The most crowded take place during Semana Santa, Easter week - I was able to catch one the Sunday before. A Guatemalan friend whose shop, Casa los Gigantes (House of the Giants), is on the procession route, invited me to attend. It was evident on the way into the city, from the traffic and the entry fee collectors, that this was a good day to park in a locked parking lot. I learn these lessons slowly sometimes, after having my car broken into on one visit and towed on another. The traffic snaked around the outskirts of town with most central roads blocked. I found a parqueo and we walked to Siggy's shop.

Along the streets, people were clustered in groups around the carpet artists creating lovely but fleeting works of art on the cobblestone streets. Some were made of painted sawdust sprinkled through stencils fashioned by local artists, others from fresh and dried flowers. One was mostly fresh white lilies with long stems, another a simple rug of pine needles with small bouquets at intervals around the border.

Patient families and tourists waiting for the parade were already choosing spots on the pavement. There were craft stalls across from the shop, surrounding an old church. I stopped in to pick up some gifts for friends I would meet on my next trip, then we started looking for a good vantage point. Pam thought it would be a good idea to get up on Siggy's roof, so we went in and asked. Be careful of the tiles, Siggy warned, as we headed up the narrow stairs in the courtyard. The roof was covered with wavy fiberglass sheets, red clay roof tiles lay on them. A workman found a ladder and showed us how to step across the tiles. My friend had already changed her mind. I stepped carefully out to the ridge, thinking I could sit there by the edge, only to find a steeper sliding section of roof heading down the other side. There would be no view from here without crossing to the steeper section. No, no, gracias, I explained to the worker, we'll watch from the street.

The vendors came first - balloons, ice cream, pinwheels, toys. We bought plastic bags of water from a vendor and watched as the purple gowned men formed a barrier along the edges of the road. A series of marchers came slowly by - Roman soldiers, men hooded in red carrying paintings depicting the stations of the cross, soldiers bearing large ornate floats of Christ on the cross, angels, and the beautifully adorned Madonna, smaller carts with statues and flowers, and a brass band following behind. Incense bearers dispersed heavy smoke between marchers, a thick atmosphere adding to the mystery of the day. The processions began in the early morning and would continue into the night.

A favorite lunch at a familiar Greek restaurant - it had turned out to be a long wait and we were hungry, baked vegetables in olive oil topped with melted feta cheese and served with warm pita slices. Then began the search for the simple wooden sign that marked the parking lot on a street that looked so much like every other, and a slow procession of cars leaving Antigua for the city and beyond.

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