Even for a Catholic like me, the Guatemalan religious traditions of Santa Semana (or Holy Week before Easter) are something to behold. Almost 40% of the country has switched from Catholicism to evangelical Christianity, but that hasn’t made a dent in the high holy days.
On 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.
But 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. It reminded me of the exquisite sand paintings created by Tibetan monks – so precise and so temporal.
Some paintings were religious; others just beautiful. But everywhere in the city, people were out in the streets, making their beautiful mark. It’s such a cool tradition from such a remarkable culture.
And just part of why I love Guatemala so much.
Happy Holy Week!
What lovely photos, Betty – I felt like I was there with you 🙂
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) !!
This makes me want to visit there. I really, really like all the wonderful quotes you have on your blog too!
Thanks, How to Nail Jello! I appreciate that & hope you’ll come back soon!
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!
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 …
Oh I am so happy that you told me about how beautiful it was!! Great to see you .. happy spring, honey!
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.
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.
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!
Hope to see you this spring, Sherry — we’re too close not to visit!!
Hope to see you sometime this spring, Sherry — we’re too close not to!!
Bet you’re enjoying going back through the photos from your Heiffer year. I know I am
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!
Colored sawdust murals? I’ve never heard of that, it’s beautiful!
I sure thought so, too!!
Those sawdust paintings seem like a different take on the great Mandela of the Buddhists.
LOVE! I so want to go now. I have just added Guatemala during Holy Week to my list.
Oh, any place in Latin America is awesome during Holy Week … but Guatemala is just really spectacular!!
I have spend a lot of time in Central and South America. So many beautiful places to see. The photos are beautiful. Thank you.
Thanks, John — you know how gorgeous it is!!
The sidewalk murals are very special! I haven’t visited Guatemala yet…but it’s on the list! Hope you’re doing well Betty. (Hugs)