Some years ago I was in Antigua, Guatemala at the end of March. I didn’t realize that I would be in the country for one of the most somber yet beautiful events I’ve ever seen: Holy Week.
The week before Easter, Semana Santa, is the most significant week for Catholics. In Guatemala, Semana Santa, takes on a level of piety far beyond anything I’ve seen in the States. The whole week is devoted to elaborate parades that reenact and commemorate Jesus’ final days on Earth. One doesn’t need to be a religious person to appreciate the intention and devotion that go into these emotional, dramatic spectacles. Hundreds of Catholics dress in costumes and act out the roles of Roman centurions, mourners, and early Christians while thousands of silent onlookers throw flowers and pray.
The crowd maintained a heavy silence, which amplified the sights and sounds of normal life. Like any grand parade, there were distracted children, mothers carrying babies and quiet adjustments of heavy robes. The sounds of a hundred shuffling feet bearing the image and weight of their savior took on an air of a whole faith observing its holiest days.
On the pavement were the alfombras, large colorful carpets meticulously arranged along the footpaths by members of local churches. The designs are made of dyed sawdust, sand and flowers, and are destroyed by the coordinated feet of the processionists within just 24 hours of being created.