Holy Week in Antigua, Guatemala

We arrived in Guatemala on April 15 to spend ten days with our daughter Melanie and family. We are all spending the first three days in the town of Antigua, a famous tourist spot, to see Roman Catholic processions that celebrate Holy Week.

First, here is a photo of Melanie’s family.

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Then, about the processions, from Palm Sunday through Easter there are one or more of them each day. They start anywhere from 4:00 to 11:00 AM and continue from eight to twelve hours, following a path through various streets and around the central park and past the cathedral.

The processions  are a beautiful spectacle. Usually, a small brass group leads the way, playing occasionally. Then one or two statues of biblical characters  on small platforms, carried on the shoulders of a few volunteers. Then there are men dressed in purple robes and headdresses.

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They line the sides of the streets. Note the one using his cell phone!

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And some of them carry censers. The aroma is very strong.

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Some of the censor carriers are quite young.

Some processions feature Roman soldiers.

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From Wednesday through Friday the large decorated floats all have to do with the suffering, death and burial of Christ.

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From this float I noticed a detail that I got in a close-up shot.

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Do you see two butterflies? Symbols of hope, I presume.

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The large floats are carried by men and boys, with 40 or more carriers per float.  The floats move forward very slowly, with many pauses along the way. After several blocks a new row of carriers steps in and trades places with the previous carriers. The carriers keep in perfect step and sway from side to side both while walking and while standing still.  As you see, the photo above is a night scene.

Behind the float and the band is a generator, pushed by hand, that powers the lights on the float and also powers floodlights so that the musicians can see their music.

On Wednesday and Thursday the men wore the robes you see in the above photo.

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Sometimes “Roman soldiers” carried the floats. Other soldiers marched as an escort. On Good Friday several soldiers rode horses,and there was one chariot.

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Here is a partial view of the band. Typically, the band had 30 or 40 instruments – brass, woodwind and percussion. The music as slow and a bit mournful, fitting the somber mood of our reflecting on the suffering of Christ. The booming drums and strong tubas gave an emphatic cadence. The band played a song, then walked in silence for awhile, and then played again.

After the band that followed the main float, anyone who wished could walk in the procession, so I did a few times on Friday, reflecting on the Scripture: “For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the Spirit.” 1 Peter 3:18

The next thing in the processions was always a float with the Virgin Mary.

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These floats were always carried by women. Another music band (of men) followed the Mary float.

Smaller floats of individual Bible characters or saints appeared at various places in the processions.

The entire pace of the procession was slow. All the participants were silent an respectful. Most of the bystanders were silent also.

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The last element in the processions is a practical one – two front loaders, two dump trucks, and a crew of workers to clean up street litter and the destroyed alfombras (decorative “carpets”) that people created.

There is more to be said about the processions, but that will have to wait for my next blogs.

 

 

 

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