Holy Guatemala!

The Virg

Even for a Catholic like me, the Guatemalan religious traditions of Santa Semana (or Holy Week before Easter) are something to behold. SEmana SantaAlmost 40% of the country has switched from Catholicism to evangelical Christianity, but that hasn’t made a dent in the high holy days.the cross

stations of the crossOn Palm Sunday in Antigua, the Mass started at 6 a.m. with a great tolling of bells and in the church plaza, beautifully hand-made palm arrangements were on sale everywhere.        mujeres

palmsBut the best part of the celebration was a tradition unique to Antigua — as overnight and through the day, people painstakingly created gigantic sidewalk murals out of colored sawdust. sawdust paintingIt reminded me of the exquisite sand paintings created by Tibetan monks – so precise and so temporal. bee


Some paintings were religious; others just beautiful. But everywhere in the city, people were out in the streets, making their beautiful mark. street sceneIt’s such a cool tradition from such a remarkable culture.

lovely girl


Lenten flowersAnd just part of why I love Guatemala so much.Antigua2

Happy Holy Week!

26 thoughts on “Holy Guatemala!

  1. Its wonderful that you can travel with your husband’s university students. Did you also get to learn Spanish?

    The best time to travel to any Catholic country is when the people are celebrating a religious holiday and Easter is one of the best holidays to photograph. Are they women singing in the second picture?

    My goodness the sidewalk murals are unbelievably detailed and beautiful. Do they leave them there until the rains wash them away?

    Have you seen Tibetan sand paintings Betty?

    • Darling Rosie — Yes, I did take 4 days of Spanish lessons, but I’m pretty hopeless at learning a new language. I DID feel like I was making progress, though! I’m not sure how long the murals stay up but I’m fairly certain they don’t do what the Buddhists do to teach impermanence — once they’ve spent hours & hours painstakingly crafting them, they just muss them up and walk away. (Yes, I’ve seen them created several times – once here at OU’s great art museum!) It was funny in Guatemala though — a street dog WALKED through the mural at one point and I thought everybody would be furious but they just patiently corrected the damage and went right on. (and yes, the women were singing as they carried the Virgin through the streets of San Juan la Laguna) !!

  2. This makes me want to visit there. I really, really like all the wonderful quotes you have on your blog too!

  3. To my eyes, I see a country full of beautiful people who are passionate about their religion. It’s glorious to witness. Any culture. Any religion. Americans have become far too secular, worried a Happy Easter wish to someone will offend. And can you imagine any town in America allowing those spectacular sidewalk murals? The persons would probably be arrested instead of lauded. Lucky you to have shared in the Holy Week experience. Beautiful photos.

    • Thanks, EOSR! I’ve always loved being in Latin countries for Holy Week, because they really SHOW OUT in their festivities & all-neighborhood celebrations. Boy, I really miss that here!

  4. Hi Betty, I see that you did get a chance to see some of the Holy Week before you left! good for you! it was gorgeous, I went back next Thursday …

  5. Those murals, especially the long one with the butterflies, show artistic talent and an appreciation for beauty. But they also demonstrate a great ability to work together. Another thing we seem to have lost in our privileged culture.

  6. I was there in 2011. My daughter had four days off before Easter Sunday so we went to Antigua for part of our trip to Guatemala. The carpets are so amazing. I wonder if the fragility of the carpets have a meaning or a representation of something. I would love to know the history of how the carpets started.

  7. Lovely! I was there around this time last year and it was amazing. I loved all the alfambras and processions. Are you there for the whole week of Semana Santa? What a show!

    • Actually, these are brand NEW photos of Guatemala — was just there for 10 days with students from my husband’s university on an alternative spring break — Spanish lessons & service — no mojitos! (sigh) But how fun it was to be back!!

      • My daughter went to Queen’s University in Charlotte and they have a program that goes there also. That is how she fell in love and lived there for a year! Truly a special experience!

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