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emana Santa in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala


Whether it's an Easter egg hunt or a fun filled Passover Seder: April fools are those who don´t have miracles to celebrate...in Guatemala, the preparations for Semana Santa start many weeks before Easter with processions at least every Friday, culminating in the Easter weekends' celebrations. Several processions on a daily basis at all different times of the day, with more or less elaborate, bizarre or gruesome outfits, customs and floats, depending on the wealth, culture and dedication of the countless church-members involved.


The most important day to celebrate of course is Friday, since the whole crucification theme lends itself more than any other to the passions of a good Central American Christian. Competing processions coming from different churches meet or try to avoid each other on a tight schedule in and around the Center of town.

Herds of honor-guards dressed in robes of black or purple with different saints in tow. Children tagging along in pint size robes and wedding-dresses, Ladinos in Suits, Indigenas in Traje. Countless virgins veiled in black, some too young and pretty to be greaving, a many too old to be virgins - all nevertheless carry their burdon with pride. Pubescent choir boys and more or less portable generators wipping up the pictoresque and essential holy smoke above it all. A true passion play - Ahh, Semana Santa.

In places, the street is adorned with colored saw dust which is used to depictions of different religious motifs or equally popular worldly ones like flowers, parrots, and butterflies. Stencils are used for precision in the making of those and the result ends up looking a bit like buddist mandalas. Men equipped with hand water pumps moisten the saw dust so the wind wont blow the images away. Despite all of their efforts to maintain the saw carpet intact before the oncoming processions mangle it on purpose, they are unable to prevent the occasional stray dog from prancing through one of the pretty pictures, much to the ammused dismay of the local onlookers.

Aside from the religious processions, the center of town also offers ancient looking, child-sized joy rides to the braver adults and their children - everybody seems to be brave here. Most of these rides are hand driven semi-hazards, even a ferris wheel is in the offer. Like the ubiquitous yellow school buses, most machines in use have had long lifes in the US and in Mexico before living yet another full life in Guatemala - God knows where they live out their retirement.

Most of the food you will see is equally sold at other festive times of the year. Appealing hand foods such as fruit, french fries, cotton candy, or pig on a spick. No seasonal species like the chocolate egg breading Easter bunny are to be seen anywhere, but there is no shortage of seasonal enjoyment. During Semana Santa, the usually somewhat stern populace lets it all hang out


To each their own - Enjoy!

Greetings, Klaus :-)

All images © Copyright 2007 by Klaus Schoenwiese - Usage by permission only

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