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Andas, Alfombras, Incense, and Processions!

Holy Week in Antigua

sunny 81 °F

All of Guatemala has processions during lent and Holy Week. I could pick up the Prensa Libre newspaper and check out the scenes from other villages and cities in this very religious country to see a montage of color. But Antigua is special. It is large enough to have as many as four processions on one day during Holy Week and small enough that you can actually plan to go see each one on foot. A necessity if you saw the traffic! I slept very little from Holy Thursday through Easter Sunday. There was just too much going on. So here is a synopsis of this very Holy Week... (Hint: I've prepared explanations on most of the photographs, so click the photo and you can read what I wrote about it!)

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Maudy Thursday or Holy Thursday has been special to me because it commemorates Jesus’ last supper. Of course some people seem to forget that the last supper was actually a Passover meal. It is also the day that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Many of the churches I have belonged to over the past decade have adopted that practice and I find it a little uncomfortable, but then isn’t that the point? Getting outside your comfort zone and making yourself a servant leader was one of Jesus’ goals. So as Holy Thursday approached I wondered what I would do to commemorate the day. My host had bought lots of flowers the day before and we had done much to prepare them to make an alfombra in front of her house. I am a doer. I like being in charge, but here I had to be a servant. I had no expertise in making a rug especially one made out of flowers!

The procession was going to come by between 5:30 and she calculated we needed to start around 1:00pm. We spent the morning preparing the flowers for the carpet. We had roses, calla lilies, agapanthus, gerber daisies, baby's breath, The two coolest looking flowers were the bird of paradise and the palm flowers (known as corozos). The corozos come in a large pod, she bought five pods that were about 5 foot long. The pod has a tough outer shell that we used a machete to cut into. The pod splits and kind of looks like a boat. Inside is the flower which looks like something out of a science fiction movie once we are done stripping it down.

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I stayed up till 11:00 pm following the procession to try to see Vey's young housekeeper carrying the Virgin, but I somehow missed her. It might have been all the incense. Nonetheless, I got a very nice picture of Gloria as she was standing in front of the house. I did get to see the beginnings of many alfombras and I tried to make a mental note of where some of these were so I could get pictures of them before they were offered up to the procession.

On Good Friday I arose at 3:30 am; I really wanted to stay in bed, but I wanted to see the procession from La Merced more. It was worth the early hour and spectacular seems like a small adjective. I felt like I was watching a live play. There were Roman soldiers on horses and carriages as well as escorts for Pontius Pilate and Herod. I was unprepared for a scene from the passion play were Jesus is brought before Pontius Pilate and he offers up to the people one prisoner to free, Jesus or another. The cries came out, "Barabbas! Barabbas!" and a prisoner was brought forth. He was told he had to walk the procession and then would be a free man. I had a very nice view of the procession exiting the church, but I decided to just enjoy it rather than fiddle with my camera controls in the dark to get a shot. After watching the Anda come out with Jesus, I set off to find some coffee and document some of the alfombras. There were so many! Everywhere along the route there were people creating rugs.

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After looking at lots of rugs, I headed back to La Merced to see the entrance of the procession. I mentioned earlier seeing the freeing of Barabbas; when I told this to my friend, she explained that Antigua at one time had a jail and the authorities would offer this "deal" to a real prisoner! This was actually in the recent past, she said the jail has only been gone about eight years. They never released a murder or someone guilty of a major crime, mostly people involved in petty theft. I don't know if on this day it was a real prisoner or just a volunteer, but I noticed at around 2:15 pm as he entered the church square and he was pronounced free by Pontius Pilate and he removed his ropes quickly walking off from the square not remaining for any of the other ceremony. The anda with Jesus finally entered the church square and it seemed bigger than when it left in the morning. I guess because I could see it better against the La Merced Church. This time I took several pictures to share...

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This was a day of firsts for me. I left this beautiful procession and walked to Escuela De Cristo to see their procession. I went into the very crowded church to see the alfombra that had lovingly been prepared and designed by the Hermandad. The man in charge of that alfombra was Enrique who is the orchid specialist that works for Vey. Afterward I walked down the street to what would be the beginning of the procession. This procession is very long because it includes the stations of the cross with cucuruchos pushing the each station float wearing black robes and tall pointy hats. They looked quite scary.

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I walked with the Iglesia de Cristo Church procession until 11:00 pm. With only 4 1/2 hours sleep the night before and being up since 3:30 am this morning I was fading fast. Added to the lack of sleep was the incense was burning my lungs. I felt a little drunk from all the smoke. I called it quits and walked home about 11:15 pm arriving at 11:30 pm. I gratefully slept until almost 10:00 am. I decided against walking with any of the processions although I did help to make an alfombra in front of my friend's store. The processions today were without Jesus. The Virgin Mary is taken out, searching for Christ.
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The procession ends up walking past Vey's house much later that night and we watch it again. It is still amazing to me the devotion there is in carrying the anda and staying with it. I end up getting to bed around 10:30 this night and the procession won't make it back to the church for another hour.

Easter morning comes at 8:15 am for me with the sound of my alarm to remind me about services at La Merced Church. I get there just before 9:00 am and the place is packed, but I manage to find a seat. All the black drapes are gone, replaced by bright yellow and white banners. The message is one that is being replayed throughout the world, "Hallelujah, Christ has Risen!" There are still even more processions today. I wait at the house to see it come by, the representation of the risen Christ.

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And so for me Holy Week comes to a close. I am happy, tired, and feeling very fortunate to have witnessed this process from lent to Easter.

Posted by Aeren 20:35 Archived in Guatemala Tagged la holy iglesia de antigua merced easter cristo week alfombra

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