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Posts tagged “procession

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: 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.


Antigua: In the Land of the Maya and Volcanoes

Below is an article that I wrote for V!VA Travel Guides, published on their website and in their print guidebook. It’s about the city that has been my home for four years.

Also check out my article on International Living’s website Living in Antigua, Guatemala: An Expat’s View.

1. The city center. The cathedral and central plaza (Parque Central) against the backdrop of Agua volcano.

In a highland valley some 1500 meters above sea level, the charming colonial city of Antigua lies, surrounded by three volcanoes. It’s tickled by the skirts of the extinct Volcán de Agua to the south and is within the gaze of two (one dormant and one active) volcanoes to the southwest, the double-ridged peak of Volcán Acatenango and the smoking Volcán Fuego.

2. Antigua sheltering in the folds of Agua volcano.

3. Volcanoes Fuego and Acatenango at sunset.

Once the seat of the Spanish colonial authority in Guatemala, Antigua oversaw a vast area stretching from southern Mexico to the impenetrable Darién Gap. The city is officially named La Muy Leal y Muy Noble Ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala, (“The Very loyal and Very Noble Knight’s City of Santiago of Guatemala”) but shortened to La Antigua Guatemala, or simply Antigua.

Nowadays, Antigua’s population stands at about 47,000 and its status as a world heritage site has preserved and restored its colonial architecture and old-world appeal. The local government only approves certain shades to paint the exterior walls of buildings and prohibits the display of signs or notices that are out of character with the rest of the city. Cobblestone streets are splashed with colorful house and shop fronts and old churches and crumbling ruins are dotted throughout.

4. Antigua's landmark arch with Agua Volcano peering beneath it.

5. Agua volcano looming over the colorful streets.

6. Distinctive La Merced church.

Due to its location, beauty, history, variety of cultural activities and outdoor excursions both inside Antigua and close by, it has become a thriving landing-place for globetrotters. The mixture of locals, travelers and expats gives it a certain worldly air.

Get a birds-eye view of the city and surrounding volcanoes and villages from the cross on the hill, Cerro de la Cruz, to the north. For security reasons it’s always advisable to go with a Tourist Police escort.

7. Antigua at the hemline of Agua volcano's skirts. View from Cerro de la Cruz.

If your time is limited, take a city walking tour of the main sights, ruins and museums. Wander through the handicrafts market to pick up souvenirs and take a look at how jade is transformed into jewelry and masks in one of the store factories. Get out-of-town to visit a coffee plantation and trek up to the edge of a flowing river of red-hot lava on Volcán Pacaya.

8. The central fountain in Parque Central overlooked by the cathedral.

9. The carved stone fountain adorned with mermaids spouting water from their bare breasts is the focal point of Parque Central.

10. The main tourist drag, the 5th Avenida. Lined with shops, restaurants and bars, spanned by the iconic Arco de Catalina and watched over by Agua volcano.

11. The ruins of San José el Viejo.

12. Santa Clara ruins.

13. Exquisite, handmade huipiles in the handicrafts market.

14. A jade factory inside a jewelry store.

15. Coffee beans.

16. Within arm's reach of red-hot lava on Volcán Pacaya.

Many travelers hang out here a while to recoup energy and recharge on the good eats. There is no shortage of restaurants in Antigua. Grab tasty bites from street venders, comedores (eateries) or restaurants serving cuisine from most corners of the world.  There are also plenty of bars to wash it down after.

17. Delicious street food.

18. International restaurant.

19. Street candy stall.

20. Fire artist performing during a fund-raising event in a popular bar.

Scores are lured by the well-earned reputation of the city as one of the choice spots to study Spanish and there are hordes of language schools of all calibers vying for the bucks.

21. This high-end Spanish school has individual classrooms in a beautiful garden overlooked by ruins. Many of the schools have ample courtyards and gardens to study in.

Volunteering opportunities are endless both in Antigua and in outlying areas with NGO organizations and projects all focusing on different social, educational, health and environmental issues. Many students invest their afternoons donating whatever skills they can offer.

22. The KIDS Restaurant is a T.E.S.S. Unlimited project to help kids learn English, develop social skills and learn to work as part of a team.

Forever a popular place to learn salsa, there are qualified instructors running classes for all levels in dance studios around town.

23. A restaurant based salsa studio.

There are infinite options for laying your head at night. The streets of Antigua are brimming with hostels, guesthouses and hotels of every description and for every pocket from penny-pinching to luxury.

24. Guatemalan style hostel terrace.

25. Luxury boutique hotel.

Tourism is the lifeblood of the local economy and language schools are one of the major employers along with hotels and restaurants. The production of typical handicrafts and fabrics and the cultivation of coffee, macadamia nuts and veggies are other big income earners.

High season is June through August and November through April. On July 25 the streets come alive with colorful parades for the Day of Santiago, the city’s patron saint.

26. A desfile or parade to celebrate Antigua's patron saint's day.

27. Trumpeters sweating under the strain and heat.

28. This desfile marched and thundered straight past my house.

Antigua is at its most crowded during Semana Santa (Holy Week) when thousands of people engulf the city to participate in and observe the ceremonies. Solemn religious processions slowly trudge the streets trampling in their path the beautifully elaborate and artistic alfombras (carpets) of dyed sawdust and flowers. Not to be missed for visitors in Guatemala at this time. Accommodation during Holy Week is filled to bursting and needs to be booked months in advance.

29. Procession during Semana Santa.

30. Finished stained sawdust and pine needle alfombras waiting for the procession to pass.

31. The 5th Avenida during Semana Santa. Making intricate sawdust alfombras in the path of a procession.