The amazing street “carpets”

We are still in Antigua, Guatemala, for this report the processions of Holy Week. One of the beautiful and creative elements in the celebrations is the street art, the creation of designs on the streets where a procession will pass through. These “carpets” (alfombras in Spanish) are designed and created by anyone who wishes. Here is a sampling of what we saw – and the work as it was being done.

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The elements in the carpets are typically colored sawdust, flowers, flower petals, pine needles, leaves and pieces of fruit or vegetables.

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The above two views feature the Quetzal (ket-zal), the national bird of Guatemala. I talked with students from The University of Texas at Austin as they worked on two alfombras. The Quetzal may have been one of their projcts, but I can’t trust my memory on that point.

As you see, many of the carpets present themes from nature or geometric designs. But some show a religious theme.

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Do you see, in the distance, Jesus on the cross? And in the middle left, is Jesus in Gethsemane, with an angel appearing to him, as one of the Gospels says.

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The most elaborate  alfombra I saw was the following.

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Take a second look at the roses. They are made of turnips, with some of the root tips still showing. You might try making this at home.

The beauty of the carpets is short-lived because of the processions. The first walkers in a procession, including the banner carriers, early trumpeters (if there area any) and rows of robed escorts, all walk on the sides of the streets, carefully avoiding stepping on the carpets. Then the float carriers walk right through the carpet, destroying it. Similarly, the band members walk over the carpet remains, then the general pilgrims, then the carriers of the Mary float, and finally the second band.

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Last of all comes the cleanup crew with their front loaders and dump trucks, shoveling and sweeping the street clean.

For me, the symbolism of the alfombras is profound. All of earth’s beauty and much of our creative efforts are temporary and short-lived. But we should not  lament this fact, for we know from the Scriptures that only the kingdom of God is forever. And God invites everyone to enter this kingdom through repentance and faith. Though our bodies, through death, return to dust, they will be raised in a new and glorious body like our  Savior has.

To God be praise and glory for ever and ever.

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