Holy Week in Antigua: Processions
Incense fragranced smog chokes the air while dozens of robed, head-dressed men known as cucuruchos, shoulder an anda (float) bearing a figure of Christ.
Processions ceremoniously leave churches and tortuously navigate their way step by step along the topsy-turvy cobble stoned streets between crumbling ruins and colonial houses, trampling in their path intricate carpets (alfombras) of garishly stained sawdust and flowers.
After each block, new recruits subtly weave their way into the procession relieving the tiring cucuruchos from their burden. Organized by a brotherhood or hermandad, locals pay the church to participate, considering it a great honor and a way of displaying devotion to their faith.
At the tail end musicians blow solemnly on brass horns accompanied by the pounding of giant drums as they shuffle over the mishmash of impressionistic color splashed cobbles.
Streets jostle with locals, expats and international visitors waiting patiently for a view of the passing procession then mingling with the trailing hawkers crying out their wares.
Finally, locals salvage broken stems of flowers before the advancing tren de limpieza (cleaning train) of bulldozers, trucks and an army of men wielding brooms and shovels who clear up the aftermath of trampled sawdust and trash.
Processions vary but each one includes an anda bearing Christ carried by purple-robed men although the hermandad wear white robes and everyone changes to somber black after the crucifixion. A smaller float with women dressed in black and white, bearing a statue of the Virgin Mary follows.
The revered Franciscan monk Saint Hermano Pedro, also known as the Saint Francis of the Americas, imported the Semana Santa (Holy Week) tradition to Antigua when he arrived from Spain about 1650. He reputedly made the earliest alfombra in Guatemala and led the first procession.
These are just a few of the images I took of the processions during this period. More will follow in my next post.
Beautifully written post and photos. I felt as if I were there.
June 3, 2011 at 11:07 am
Thank you so much and I’m glad it took you there in spirit! It’s an incredible experience that’s for sure. By the way I love your blog! It sounds like you’re well settled into Sardinian life.
June 3, 2011 at 9:51 pm
You are such an amazing photographer! Great post!
June 6, 2011 at 1:03 am
Thank you! It makes me so happy when others enjoy my photos and that’s the best compliment anyone could give me!
June 6, 2011 at 6:56 am
Caminar por tus fotografías es increíble, nunca me canso de ver cosas nuevas…, muy buenas de verdad¡
June 7, 2011 at 6:30 am
Muchísimas gracias! Me alegra mucho que las disfrutes! Semana Santa en Antigua está lleno de color.
June 7, 2011 at 7:43 pm
Pingback: Holy Week Alfombra Detail: Part 2 « loca4motion
Really impressive and colorful. Can you imagine having to carry such a big statue…
Do the processions only happen once a year? And what happens after the processions?
May 2, 2012 at 1:21 pm
Thank you! Some of the andas take 100 men to carry they’re so big and heavy. Hard to imagine but incredible to see.
Yes, just once a year. There are processions throughout Lent mainly on weekends which culminate with Holy Week processions every day.
Following each procession is a cleanup gang then hours before the next procession people start making more alfombras. The streets are busiest with alfombra making and processions the Thursday night and Good Friday.
The last procession is a small, happy one on Easter Sunday. I’ll do a post on that. Then other than mass that’s it, it’s over for another year when it all starts again!
May 2, 2012 at 2:38 pm
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