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Posts tagged “guatemala

Todos Santos: Cemetery Celebrations Part 3

This is the last post in my Todos Santos series. The graves in this remote highland village in Guatemala were vibrantly painted and adorned with flowers and gaudy wreaths for All Saints’ Day or El Día de Todos Los Santos on November 1.

If you haven’t already, check out my other posts Todos Santos: Cemetery CelebrationsTodos Santos: Cemetery Celebrations Part 2 and Todos Santos: A Drunken Guatemalan Horse Race.

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Todos Santos: Cemetery Celebrations Part 2

“The merry dance, beer in hand, in the grave choked hillside cemetery alongside marimba playing musicians.”

While visiting Todos Santos in the remote highlands of Guatemala during the festivities of El Día de Todos Los Santos or All Saints’ Day on November 1, I found these locals celebrating in the village cemetery.

Men clad in the unique village uniform danced unsteadily, beer in hand, among the tightly packed, painted graves to the typical Guatemalan soundtrack of marimba.

Check out my first Todos Santos: Cemetery Celebrations post and the earlier Todos Santos: A Drunken Guatemalan Horse Race.

Marimba playing and dancing in the cemetery, Todos Santos Cuchumatán, Huehuetenango, Guatemala

Marimba band playing and merry locals dancing in the cemetery

Marimba playing and dancing in the cemetery, Todos Santos Cuchumatán, Huehuetenango, Guatemala

Local men dancing to the sound of marimba among the graves in the cemetery, beer in hand

Marimba playing and dancing in the cemetery, Todos Santos Cuchumatán, Huehuetenango, Guatemala

Everyday clothes for men and women in Todos Santos. The men have their uniform and the women have theirs. Each village has their own unique traditional costume worn daily not just for special occasions.

Marimba playing and dancing in the cemetery, Todos Santos Cuchumatán, Huehuetenango, Guatemala

A little tipsy


Todos Santos: Cemetery Celebrations

‘The festival continues as families pay their respects to departed loved ones, praying and decorating tombs with gaudy garlands.”

As in other areas of Guatemala, the remote village of Todos Santos just over 8000 feet above sea level in the northern Guatemalan highlands celebrates El Día de Todos Los Santos or All Saints’ Day on November 1.

Countrywide cemeteries are the heart of festivities. However, in Todos Santos locals also hold a unique horse race with Mayan roots; “…inebriated, traditionally clad locals race horses…. All-male jockeys, hardy residents of Todos Santos, spend a sleepless night beforehand ritualistically drinking themselves into an alcohol-induced stupor….”.

Below are a few shots of cemetery scenes taken on my arrival in Todos Santos on October 31 a couple of years ago.

While this post focuses on the cemetery, you can also check out Todos Santos: A Drunken Guatemalan Horse Race from where I took the extracts above.

Cemetery wreaths, Todos Santos Cuchumatán, Huehuetenango, Guatemala

Plastic wreath and flower stall in the dirt street outside the town cemetery

Selling cemetery wreaths, Todos Santos Cuchumatán, Huehuetenango, Guatemala

Selling plastic wreaths and flowers outside the cemetery

Town cemetery, Todos Santos Cuchumatán, Huehuetenango, Guatemala

Inside the town cemetery. U.S.A. flag painted on a tomb. Houses scattered on a foggy hillside in the background.

Town cemetery, Todos Santos Cuchumatán, Huehuetenango, Guatemala

Inside the town cemetery. A little girl arranging flowers at a tomb while thick fog creeps in.

Town cemetery, Todos Santos Cuchumatán, Huehuetenango, Guatemala

Inside the town cemetery. Plastic wreaths and bunting adorn painted tombs.


Holy Week’s Finale – Easter Sunday Resurrection Procession

In Antigua, Guatemala, Easter Sunday’s (Domingo de Resurrección) modest procession celebrating the resurrection of Christ (Procesión de Resurrección) contrasts starkly with the solemnity of the Lent (Cuaresma) and Holy Week (Semana Santa) processions.

Suddenly the blanket of sadness lifts and there is a festive air. Smiling folk in colorful costumes play lively music and dance over candy-strewn alfombras that children pounce on like booty from a battered piñata. Shreds of colored paper scattered from rooftops float in the breeze like confetti and firecrackers echo throughout the city.

Sadly missing the Semana Santa extravaganza in Antigua this year, I felt compelled to go through my archive of photos taken while living there. Check out my earlier posts here.

Happy Easter!

Waiting for the procession to leave Hermano Pedro church. View of Volcán de Agua in the background. Antigua, Guatemala

Waiting for the procession to leave Hermano Pedro church. View of Volcán de Agua in the background.

Procession walking over a flower alfombra (carpet) after leaving Hermano Pedro church, Antigua, Guatemala

Procession walking over a flower alfombra (carpet) after leaving Hermano Pedro church

easter-sunday-domingo-de-resurreccióIncense to purify, shouting "Cristo Vive!" (Christ Lives!) before the procession from Hermano Pedro church, Antigua, Guatemalan-resurrection-procession-antigua-guatemala-3

Incense to purify, shouting “Cristo Vive!” (Christ Lives!) before the procession from Hermano Pedro church

Merrymakers dance and play music while paper confetti rains down from rooftops over the procession, Antigua, Guatemala

Merrymakers dance and play music while paper confetti rains down from rooftops over the procession

Dyed sawdust alfombra (carpet) in the path of the procession, Antigua, Guatemala

Dyed sawdust alfombra (carpet) in the path of the procession

Here he comes! Antigua, Guatemala

Here he comes!

"I am the bread of life". Walking over an alfombra, Antigua, Guatemala

“I am the bread of life”. Walking over an alfombra.

Smiling nun, Antigua, Guatemala

Smiling nun


Holy Week in Antigua – A Close up of Alfombra Making

World famous for its Lent (Cuaresma) and Holy Week (Semana Santa) celebrations, Antigua and surrounding pueblos in the central highlands of Guatemala buzz with people, emotion and activities at this time of year more than any other. Families, friends, neighbors and communities spend hours together creating elaborate ceremonial carpets called alfombras along the route of religious processions.

Some make simple alfombras of pine needles strewn with flowers. Others create intricate, time-consuming works of art using stencils and sawdust (called aserrín) stained the varying hues of an artist’s palette. For these, they level a surface of sand or plain sawdust over the uneven cobblestones before sifting a fine layer of dyed sawdust to paint a colored background.

Placing their choice of cardboard or wooden stencils cut into various images and patterns on the blank canvas they carefully sift contrasting hues of sawdust to create the effect they want. Laying on platforms of sturdy planks of wood placed on blocks spanning the width of the alfombra, they avoid damaging their art.

After months of planning and hours of work and painstaking concentration, masterpieces carpet the cobbles in the path of processions only to be trampled moments later into an impressionistic mishmash between gray stones.

Here’s a photo tour of the elaborate process of alfombra-making! Click here to see all my Holy Week posts from previous years. For this year’s Semana Santa photos and all things Antigueño, check out Antigua Daily Photo.

Spraying a completed sawdust alfombra with water to stop it drying and blowing away in the wind, Antigua, Guatemala

Spraying a completed sawdust alfombra with water to stop it drying and blowing away in the wind

Making alfombras all Maundy Thursday (Jueves Santo) night for the early morning Good Friday (Viernes Santo) procession, Antigua, Guatemala

Making alfombras all Maundy Thursday (Jueves Santo) night for the early morning Good Friday (Viernes Santo) procession

Making alfombras all Maundy Thursday (Jueves Santo) night for the early morning Good Friday (Viernes Santo) procession, Antigua, Guatemala

Making alfombras all Maundy Thursday (Jueves Santo) night for the early morning Good Friday (Viernes Santo) procession

Making alfombras all Maundy Thursday (Jueves Santo) night for the early morning Good Friday (Viernes Santo) procession, Antigua, Guatemala

Making alfombras all Maundy Thursday (Jueves Santo) night for the early morning Good Friday (Viernes Santo) procession

Dyed sawdust (aserrín) for making alfombras, Antigua, Guatemala

Dyed sawdust (aserrín) for making alfombras

Stencils for making alfombras, Antigua, Guatemala

Stencils for making alfombras

Lying on raised wooden planks to decorate and avoid damaging alfombras, Antigua, Guatemala

Lying on raised wooden planks to decorate and avoid damaging alfombras

Close up of dyed sawdust (aserrín) and stencil, Antigua, Guatemala

Close up of dyed sawdust (aserrín) and stencil

Adding detail using dyed sawdust (aserrín) and stencil, Antigua, Guatemala

Adding detail using dyed sawdust (aserrín) and stencil

Sifting a base of dyed sawdust (aserrín), Antigua, Guatemala

Sifting a base of dyed sawdust (aserrín)

Sifting blue sawdust (aserrín) flowers on to the orange base using a cardboard stencil, Antigua, Guatemala

Sifting blue sawdust (aserrín) flowers on to the orange base using a cardboard stencil

Arranging fresh flowers around the alfombra, Antigua, Guatemala

Arranging fresh flowers around the alfombra

A simple alfombra of leaves and flowers, Antigua, Guatemala

A simple alfombra of leaves and flowers

Scattering natural colored sawdust on a pine needle alfombra, Antigua, Guatemala

Scattering natural colored sawdust on a pine needle alfombra

Flower and pine needle alfombra, Antigua, Guatemala

Flower and pine needle alfombra

Using wooden stencils for intricate dyed sawdust alfombra, Antigua, Guatemala

Using wooden stencils for intricate dyed sawdust alfombra

Different hues of dyed sawdust, Antigua, Guatemala

Different hues of dyed sawdust

Showing scale and intricacy of dyed sawdust alfombra, Antigua, Guatemala

Showing scale and intricacy of dyed sawdust alfombra

Stunning detail of rear view of a Guatemalan indigenous woman, Antigua, Guatemala

Stunning detail of rear view of a Guatemalan indigenous woman

Crowds admiring the completed alfombra moments before the procession walks over it, Antigua, Guatemala

Crowds admiring the completed alfombra moments before the procession walks over it


Antigua’s Volcanoes: Fuego and Acatenango

Following on from my post of Volcán de Fuego erupting here are some tranquil views of the volcano nudging its twin-peaked companion Volcán Acatenango, two of the three volcanoes surrounding Antigua.


Guatemala’s Volcán de Fuego: An Erupting Volcano

A river of scorching lava blazed and flowed from the crater’s rim as fire shot out of its belly.  Last night Volcán de Fuego or volcano of fire, one of the most active volcanoes in Guatemala and one of the three volcanoes overlooking Antigua, erupted furiously.

Privileged to witness the spectacle from my rooftop terrace I watched and photographed it until after midnight. Here are just a couple of the shots I took.


Holy Week Alfombra Detail: Part 2

My post Holy Week Alfombra Detail: Part 1 was just a taster of the thousands of alfombras created during Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Antigua, Guatemala. As so many intricate details grabbed my attention, I had to break them down into separate posts.


Holy Week Alfombra Detail: Part 1

Semana Santa (Holy Week) has come and gone again in Antigua, Guatemala along with thousands of ceremonial carpets known as alfombras, laid and destroyed in the path of processions.

This post is dedicated to details of these pieces of art made of dyed sawdust, pine needles, flowers, fruit and vegetables where biblical and Mayan themes, crosses and hearts predominate.

For more of my alfombra posts check out  Holy Week in Antigua: Alfombras and Just Kids: The Art of Alfombras. For all my Semana Santa posts including processions and velaciones (Holy Vigils) click here. Also, Holy Week Alfombra Detail: Part 2 is now posted.


Todos Santos: A Drunken Guatemalan Horse Race

International Living recently published my article about a unique Guatemalan horse race with drunken Mayan jockeys. Below is my original submission with many more than the one photo published with the article.

My childhood dream  was to explore the world, treading in the footsteps of past explorers while discovering the wonders of its landscapes and people for myself.

After many long stints of traveling and returning to save for my next trip I qualified as an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher and spent over five incredible years teaching in Thailand before hitting Latin American soil.

AWAI travel writing and photography workshops opened doors to an entirely new world and I’m now based in the beautiful colonial city of Antigua in Guatemala living my dream as a travel writer and photographer.

Last year I headed with a friend to the remote village of Todos Santos just over 8000 feet above sea level in the northern Guatemalan highlands.

We went to witness the famous annual festival with inebriated, traditionally clad locals racing horses on All Saints’ Day on November 1. All-male jockeys, hardy residents of Todos Santos, spend a sleepless night beforehand ritualistically drinking themselves into an alcohol-induced stupor.

The following morning, families dress riders in the unique traditional uniform worn every day by male villagers, tough red and white striped pants with thick blue and white striped shirts trimmed with embroidered collar and cuffs.

For the race, they wear a ceremonial red sash and their everyday straw hat brims with streaming feathers and multi-colored ribbons symbolizing the sacred quetzal bird.

Helped onto the back of a horse, rented especially for the day, these inebriated jockeys set off unsteadily in a muddle of flying legs and flailing arms, whooping and singing loudly, pounding point to point along a short dirt track in the cold mist and drizzle.

With no official start or finish, riders stop briefly at each end of the track to snatch another mouthful of booze before wildly dashing back in a tattered group, hooves throwing clods of dirt in the faces of onlookers.

Some tumble in the mud but are quickly dragged out of the path of oncoming steaming, rain-soaked steeds by helpers along the track. The chaos continues for seven hours, stopping only for lunch, participants joining and leaving (usually when they’re too drunk to stay on the horse) the event as they wish.

Spectators are mainly colorfully clad locals from Todos Santos and surrounding settlements with a handful of outsiders. Crowding against the wooden railings or scrambling up a steep grassy incline for a birds-eye view, neither cheering nor clapping, each village’s distinctive costume clashes against its neighbor.

Like no other horse race I’ve seen, Skach Koyl as it’s called in mam the local Mayan language, is more a rite of passage than a competition as there’s no winner. Its roots are vague but most agree it began around the time of the Spanish conquest when the Spaniards introduced horses to the region.

Mayan tradition expects village men to participate four times in a lifetime. The final year on the last mad dash along the track the jockey brandishes a live chicken triumphantly as he rides. Later that night he eats the entire bird alone to signify the end of his obligation.

The festival continues as families pay their respects to departed loved ones, praying and decorating tombs with gaudy garlands. The merry dance, beer in hand, in the grave choked hillside cemetery alongside marimba playing musicians.

The intrigue of new people and places, customs, foods and festivals not only quenches my lust for travel and adventure but provides an income too. Trips like these can pay for themselves with a little effort in the field to take photos and gather fodder for articles. But when you’re living your dream, doing what you love, you can hardly call it work!


Antigua: A Highland Colonial City In the Land of Eternal Spring

Volcanoes soar into cobalt blue skies creating a surreal backdrop to the highland colonial city of Antigua in Guatemala, nicknamed the land of eternal spring.

Blossoms cascade and fountains gush in leafy plazas while a patchwork of low candy-colored buildings cheerfully clash against the muted tones of earthquake torn ruins and tidy grid of gray cobblestone streets.

Although I never tire of wandering the crisscross of quaint avenues and alleys and am never short of photo fodder, a recent visit from a fellow blogger re-opened my eyes to its unique beauty as I led her on a whirlwind tour of my adopted hometown. Thank you Nicole of thirdeyemom!


Lago de Atitlán: One lake and Volcanoes, Volcanoes, Volcanoes

Dramatic, ethereal volcanoes, summits softly draped in swathes of cloud, crouch serenely across an expanse of shimmering, rippling water. A melody of gently lapping waves and the breathless sighs of breeze-tickled leaves create a soothing soundtrack while the scent of exotic blooms wafts delicately through the air.

Formed in an enormous ancient caldera at 1,560 meters (5,120 feet) above sea level in the western highlands of Guatemala, and 18 kilometers long (11 miles), Lago de Atitlán (Lake Atitlan) is recognized as the deepest lake in Central America, reaching depths of around 340 meters (1,115 feet).

Three volcanoes dominate its southern fringe, Atitlán, Tolimán, and San Pedro, the latter two emerging from the lakeside.

Mayan culture prevails among the largely indigenous population of the various villages freckling the shoreline, many reached by dirt roads, some only by boat. Predominantly Kaqchikel and Tz’utujil, speaking different languages, inhabitants still practice ancient traditions and wear the typical hand-woven garb of their ancestors.

Tourism is a top income earner for the area. As one of Guatemala’s natural treasures and a highlight on any globetrotter’s itinerary, many jaded travelers believe it’s the world’s most beautiful lake.

Panajachel, the main town on the lake’s shores and the jumping off point to smaller lakeside villages, is about 150 kilometers (93 miles) from the popular colonial city of Antigua. Agriculture, primarily coffee and corn also boost the economy.

I spent a chilled out Christmas in Santa Cruz la Laguna, a sleepy pueblo accessed only by boat or foot.  At the tranquil lakeside Hotel Arca de Noé, lush gardens tumble down to the water’s edge and volcano vistas dominate the horizon, soothing the soul.

The lake changes guise as wistful breeze or surly gale whip up the sleek, glassy surface, the ever-shifting light reflecting off its belly creating varying hues of metallic gray, emerald green and turquoise.


Climb for Life: Guatemala’s Protest against Violence

Sweating and choking on dust as it coated our skin and clothes in thick layers we slowly climbed the narrow path up the side of the extinct Volcán de Agua (Water Volcano), that looms 3,765 m (12,352 feet) above the colonial city of Antigua, about 45 km from the capital Guatemala City.

But this was no ordinary volcano hike. We were far from alone.

On January 21 around 12,000 people took part in the campaign “Subida por la Vida” or “Climb for Life” to protest Guatemala’s domestic violence. Hoping to change cultural attitudes with a call for peace and love while raising funds for its victims, activists joined hands up the volcano’s slopes to her summit, aiming to form a record-breaking human chain.

A Guatemalan flag was then passed over heads along the chain to the top amidst patriotic cheers while about 1,500 people stood holding hands in the crater forming the shape of a giant, possibly record-breaking heart.

British ambassador Julie Chappell hiked with the hordes, her embassy having helped fund and organize the campaign while national and international media helicopters buzzed overhead filming the event creating whirlwinds of dust as they landed.

Security was high with a heavy presence of armed national police and soldiers as Guatemala’s new President, Otto Perez Molina was among those taking part.

Here are the photos I took that day although as I only climbed about half way up I didn’t get shots of the crater and views from the summit. For those, check out these photos.


The Darling Buds of Guatemala: Lakeside Blooms

Vibrant exotic blooms wrestle for the limelight against spectacular lakeside scenery dominated by conical-shaped volcanoes. Guatemala exudes color both natural and manmade and the shores of Lago de Atitlán (Lake Atitlan), a glistening treasure in the Western highlands about 150 kilometers from colonial Antigua, are no exception.

These beauties begged my attention as I wandered along the shoreline gardens of Hotel Arca de Noé in Santa Cruz La Laguna where I spent a peaceful Christmas cocooned in the arms of Mother Nature. Eye catching form and color at almost every step, it’s an outdoor lover’s Eden.

The early morning glow caressing blooms picked by the hotel owner from her verdant lakeshore gardens also pleaded a click of the shutter.

The lake with its stunning volcano views deserves a separate post.


Guatemala: 190 Years of Independence

Packs of runners of all ages, seasoned athletes or not, blast on whistles as they pound Guatemala’s streets, independence torches ablaze. Runners, spectators and parades crowd main squares and central parks, a festive buzz charging the air.

Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica proclaimed independence from Spain on September 15, 1821. This year they celebrated 190 years of autonomy.

Each year, for weeks beforehand, neighborhoods vibrate daily as student bands practice, the patriotic decorate windows and doorways with independence bunting and street vendors sell Guatemalan flags.

Runners charge excitedly through the streets all over the country on September 14, heading to city central plazas to fetch the independence flame from burning beacons for their community’s independence torch.

On September 15, colorful celebratory parades of brass bands and dancers boom and boogie their way for hours through streets teeming with expectant onlookers.

At 6 p.m., towns and cities nationwide hold civic ceremonies in their central squares. Speeches commemorate the signing of the Independence Act and pledge allegiance to the flag. The Guatemalan flag is then lowered while crowds solemnly sing the Himno Nacionaltheir national anthem.

These are some of my favorite images of the runners shot on September 14, 2009 and 2011 in Antigua, a favorite place for fetching the independence flame. Last year, due to severe weather causing treacherous landslides countrywide, authorities suspended the tradition for safety reasons.


Salto de Chilascó: Central America’s Highest Waterfall

In ankle-length skirt and dance pumps, our 12-year old guide Verónica led us daintily along the windy, muddy path between steep fields of broccoli and maize upwards into the pristine mist-shrouded cloud forest, known as el bosque nuboso.

We were headed towards the remote Salto de Chilascó, claimed by locals to be Central America´s highest waterfall at 130 meters. It lies deep in the Sierra de las Minas Biosphere Reserve in north-central Guatemala in the largest cloud forest in Central America.

The path at times left us floundering and slithering in a quagmire of mud, a drawback of hiking in the rainy season (although the cloud forest is humid year round) but the upside was the impressive volume of water cascading down from the mountaintop through lush vegetation.

The only sign of humanity we came across were a returning group of three hikers with their guide near the trailhead and a handful of campesinos on foot and horseback resting or headed to their tracts of crops.

As we climbed from hand-tilled patches of land to cloud forest, we were engulfed in the luxuriant growth of trees swimming with vivid orchids and lush giant bromeliads and ferns thriving in the heavy moisture. A tiny cobra surprised us as it slithered delicately off the narrow path, then a giant shiny beetle with snapping pincers stopped us in our tracks.

We heard the roar of water long before reaching the mirador, where we first glimpsed the lofty falls almost hidden behind a mesh of swirling cloud, about an hour from the start of the trail. Another 20 minutes downhill and we reached a closer viewpoint of the thundering, towering torrent of water. We would’ve descended to the cataract’s belly but due to heavy rainfall in the morning forcing us to start late, we had little daylight to play with so turned back.

It’s a trip for the active and adventurous and by far the easiest way to get there is to hire a car, or alternatively Aventuras Turisticas can run tours during the dry season around March to May.

From Guatemala City take the highway to Cobán in Alta Verapaz, turning off at Km. 145 signposted to Chilascó and continue along the dirt road for 12 kilometers. The village of San Rafael Chilascó is 157 kilometers from the capital.

Stop at the Centro Turístico to pay an admission fee of $4.50 and hire a guide for the same amount. There is also the option of going on horseback for about $13/hour. Verónica’s father, the Tourism administrator, welcomed us warmly and was very keen to get more visitors to the falls. Wet weather gear and good walking boots are advisable during the rainy season and can be rented very cheaply at the tourist center.

Drive about two kilometers to the parking lot by the trailhead and trek another three kilometers to the falls. Take a separate path to the smaller Saltito where you can swim before taking another trail down to the imposing Salto de Chilascó. Verónica told us that the waterfall was only discovered in 1995. Since then, scant visitors (due to its remoteness) have left no obvious impact on the area and the trail remains unspoiled.

A tranquil place to stay just a few kilometers away is the eco-lodge Ram Tzul set in a private nature reserve. It has an imposing restaurant/reception building that they claim to be the largest bamboo construction in Central America! Private cabins cost $35/double and have lavish wooden interiors and ample windows overlooking vistas of forest and hills. Outdoor activities in this sanctuary include walking trails, horseback riding, mountain biking, bird watching and camping.

Finally, any visitor to the area should sample the traditional, regional Mayan dish Kak’iq, a tasty turkey broth served with hunks of meat, rice and tamales found in most local restaurants. It goes down a treat after a long hike.


A Guatemalan Election Campaign: Dancing Characters, Confetti, Firecrackers and a Prayer

A carnival buzz charged the breeze. Colorful confetti fluttered like a plague of butterflies, landing in people’s hair and staining the cobbles. Exploding firecracker sparks ricocheted between painted house fronts a few feet from the crowd, deafening echoes blasting the eardrums and smoke clogging the air.

Two days before the Guatemalan General Elections, so much sound pollution invaded my apartment that I decided to grab my camera and head outside to see what all the noise was about.

Just outside, next to the little park, an election campaign was in full swing, a small stage blocking the street entrance. A candidate for the mayor of Antigua, flanked by his family and followers waving red flags, was promoting himself enthusiastically, loudly spewing his political spiel into a microphone.

A small crowd of supporters wearing identical red t-shirts emblazoned with the political party slogan and youths half-dressed in clumsy character costumes clustered around the stage avidly following each word. They sang and chanted. They cheered, clapped and waved.

election campaign antigua guatemala

election campaign antigua guatemala

election campaign antigua guatemala

election campaign antigua guatemala

An assortment of giant gaudy character heads littered the ground behind them, removed and momentarily abandoned once their role in the outlandish dancing display was over. I’d heard the loud music from inside my apartment, blasting out of oversized speakers but I’d missed that part of the spectacle.

election campaign antigua guatemala

election campaign antigua guatemala

election campaign antigua guatemala

election campaign antigua guatemala

election campaign antigua guatemala

election campaign antigua guatemala

election campaign firecrackers antigua guatemala

election campaign antigua guatemala

election campaign antigua guatemala

election campaign firecrackers antigua guatemalaAs the campaign came to a close, the hopeful future mayor of Antigua recited a prayer while everyone bowed his or her head. Guatemalan law required all vote soliciting to end at midday on September 9 in preparation for elections on September 11.

Youths retrieved their character heads posing for photographs while helpers dismantled the stage, packing it up into the back of a pickup truck and driving off. Everyone else trickled away on foot through the park and normal daily life resumed.

election campaign antigua guatemala

election campaign antigua guatemala

election campaign antigua guatemala

election campaign antigua guatemala

election campaign antigua guatemala

election campaign antigua guatemala

election campaign antigua guatemala

election campaign antigua guatemala

election campaign antigua guatemala

election campaign antigua guatemala

election campaign antigua guatemala

election campaign antigua guatemala

election campaign antigua guatemala


Guatemala’s Elections: Political Propaganda

For months, in the run up to the Guatemalan General Elections, political propaganda plastered walls and electricity poles, billboards lined the streets and banners waved in the breeze overhead in every town and village. Even rural areas didn’t escape the onslaught as election publicity littered the landscape.

Political parties blasted out their campaigns nationwide, noise pollution escalating with microphone speeches and overly zealous music pumping out from giant speakers, all the while cheered on by their supporters dressed in matching t-shirts and waving colored flags.

The people lined up at voting centers across the country on September 11. There were ballots for municipal mayors, departmental congress members, Central American parliament, president and vice-president.

As there was no clear winner in the presidential election (candidates need to win 50 percent of votes to win) there will be a presidential run-off on November 6.

Take a tour through some of Guatemala’s 2011 political propaganda.

Jocotenango

election propaganda jocotenango guatemala

election propaganda jocotenango guatemala

election propaganda jocotenango guatemala

election propaganda jocotenango guatemala

election propaganda church jocotenango guatemala

election propaganda jocotenango guatemala

election propaganda jocotenango guatemala

election propaganda jocotenango guatemala

election propaganda jocotenango guatemala

election propaganda jocotenango guatemala

election propaganda jocotenango guatemala

election propaganda jocotenango guatemala

election propaganda jocotenango guatemala

election propaganda jocotenango guatemala

election propaganda jocotenango guatemala

election propaganda jocotenango guatemala

election propaganda jocotenango guatemala

election propaganda jocotenango guatemala

election propaganda jocotenango guatemala

Antigua
election propaganda antigua guatemala

Baja Verapaz
election propaganda baja verapaz guatemala

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Just Kids: Work, Rest, Play

Following are some photos taken of kids working, resting and playing during Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Antigua.

Work

1. Selling "ramos", handmade flower and palm leaf bouquets, for Palm Sunday processions

2. More kids selling "ramos"

3. Selling toys in the street

Rest

4. Sleeping

5. Wandering around after a procession has passed

6. Break time

7. Worn out from too much walking following the processions

Play

8. Playing in the debris of an Easter Sunday procession

9. Fighting for sweets left in a trampled Easter Sunday alfombra

10. Recreating their own Semana Santa procession complete with anda and cucuruchos

11. Close up of anda and cucuruchos


Just Kids: The Art of Alfombras

Guatemalan kids love to express their creative side helping their parents in the art of making elaborate, vivid alfombras (carpets) of gaudily dyed aserrín (sawdust), pine needles, flowers and fruit during Semana Santa (Holy Week).

Engrossed in their handiwork, mostly oblivious to onlookers, they play with color and form. Laying flowers and petals on carpets of soft, scented pine needles or sifting, spooning and massaging with fingertips psychedelic sawdust into carved out shapes in wooden stencils: this is the ultimate art class for kids!

Here are just a few images captured in Antigua at this time.

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Just Kids: Little Girls

Not just the cucurucho boys take part in the processions during Semana Santa (Holy Week).

Mothers dress up their young daughters in formal black and white, often covering their heads in lace shawls, and either carry or lead them while they take part in processions.

Like the boys, the girls too have their own procesiones infantiles, mini child processions where they carry their own andas (floats) helped by adults and chaperoned by their parents.

Here are a few photos of some girls in Antigua.

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Just Kids: Cucurucho Boys

Guatemalan catholic families initiate their kids into Semana Santa (Holy Week) at an early age.

Parents dress up their male children, some still babies, in the purple robes of the cucurucho, (the color purple symbolizing Christ’s suffering) and fathers carry them in their arms or lead them by the hand in the processions.

Some days young boys carry their own andas (floats), the main load taken by men, in mini child processions called procesiones infantiles while parents walk along beside them.

Following are some shots I took of the boy cucuruchos in Antigua.

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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.

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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.

2. Volcano Agua looming behind

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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.

4. Early morning procession on Good Friday with romans on horseback

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11. Smog fills the air in this nighttime procession

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14. Another nighttime procession against a backdrop of Volcano Agua

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19. Anda with the Virgin Mary carried by women

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24. Cucuruchos carrying the anda with Christ are the first to step on the alfombras. Those in front walk around them.


Holy Week in Antigua: Velaciones

Velaciones or holy vigils adorn churches around Antigua, Guatemala and surrounding villages at least every Friday throughout Cuaresma (Lent) and about two days before processions during Semana Santa (Holy Week).

1. Velación with fruit and vegetable garden arranged around the blue dyed sawdust alfombra

A brotherhood, known as a hermandad, organizes their church’s velación, displaying their religious processional image near the altar against a giant biblical backdrop. At its feet lies a vibrant handmade alfombra (carpet) of sawdust, hemmed by a huerto (garden), an eye-catching display of flowers, fruit, vegetables, candles and specially shaped loaves of bread, brought to the church as offerings the day before.

2. Velación with natural colored sawdust alfombra decorated with fruit, flowers and candles

3. Colorful sawdust alfombra surrounded with fruit and flowers

4. Alfombra dyed the traditional mauve of Semana Santa surrounded by a huge array of vegetables

5. Close up of the alfombra with an image of Jesus bearing the cross

6. A brightly colored alfombra edged with displays of flowers, fruit and vegetables. Some processional images sit below the backdrop

7. Another colorful velación

8. One of the processional images, a figure of Mary

9. Close up of a velación huerto of fruit, vegetables and specially made bread

10. Some velaciones have caged birds in the garden

11. The corozo, a giant seed pod, grows on a species of palm tree in Guatemala. It's a traditional adornment for alfombras during Semana Santa

12. Close up of the corozo seed pod

Sacred music plays while the faithful or the inquisitive flood into the church to pray and admire these temporary works of religious art. A festival atmosphere fills the evening air outside as hordes of visitors hang around in groups gossiping and jostling for the best bites around smoky grills and seasonal food and drink stands.

13. The faithful praying and admiring the velación at the front of the church

14. Smoky grills awaiting the hungry

15. Firing up the comal to cook tortillas