Semana Santa: Antigua, Guatemala Celebrates Holy Week

Myself and my dear Mama Nina with our Pasca and Easter gatherings after the blessing.

At this moment today Ukrainians are gathered around the homemade brick oven, carefully crafting their many a pasca, a delightful sweet bread baked at Easter time and served with domashny syr, a mouthful of goodness in cheese when combined with the pasca, all to be put in humble wicker baskets along with sausage, eggs, ham, cucumbers and a gaggle of garden gatherings for blessing on Easter Day.  Simultaneously, south of the border our Mexican neighbors are blowing the yokes from their eggs and filling them with colorful combinations of confetti, unsure whether to wish to be the victim and receive good luck as an imploded rainbow fills their hair, or stay clear and avoid the pain of Primo Jorge and his deadly cascaróne  strike.   On their lunchbreak an American parent is lugging their little one to be the next in line for a someday-to-be-blackmail photo with the Easter Bunny, while  the better half is buying the last of the Starburst jelly beans to fill those plastic eggs.  As exciting as this “ecclesiastical” extravagance may seem, it may not rival the scene on the streets of ancient Guatemala, I mean Antigua, Guatemala.


The cargadoras, women who bear the wooden depictions, as they carry forth along the streets of Antigua

A celebration that began almost 40 days ago, Semana Santa (Holy Week) is a culmination of the Lenten Season that ends this Sunday with the Easter procession.  And while there are numerous festivities throughout all of Latin America, Guatemaltecos, especially those of the Antiguan persuasion, go the extra mile (or kilometer in their country)[1]. A sensory overload of the holiest kind, the processions along the cobblestoned corridors of Antigua’s quaint city center are almost overflowing as pious pedestrians are huddled against pastel painted facades of tiendas y empresas touristas alike, making way for the foreboding presence of the andas coming down the lane[2].   The andas are almost quite literally the cross that the locals bear, carrying thousands of pounds of carved wooden floats bearing depictions of Jesus and Mary on their shoulders, to the humble hush of the hoi polloi present. Such spectacles are complimented by funeral bands, providing a somber yet soothing soundtrack to the delicate nature of the event they are a valuable part of.  Yet those who aren’t involved in the actual procession play just as pivotal a role in its execution.


A mesmerizing (albeit ephemeral once the procession begins) sight to behold is not at eye-level but foot.  Although not taught in shop or in art school, the creation of the alfombra, takes the best of both worlds in efforts to consecrate a terrestrial tapestry that would be worthy of the Rose Bowl Parade in its own right.  Created most often of sawdust, the alfombra is a carpet of kaleidoscopic contour that is meticulously manufactured a mano, as locals quite appropriately rest in genuflection laying spoonfuls of dyed sawdust into designs of the decoro de Dios.  Others are made of pine needles and are gently garnered with fruits, vegetables, and flowers such as carnations, bougainvillea, chrysanthemums, and roses[3].  Perhaps a symbol of the transcendence and propriety of the occasion, the faithfully made carpets are wistfully whisked away by the shuffling and scurrying of the citizenry of Antigua as they greet their Lord in humble lavishness.

But a smattering of the vivid alfombras created by locals in Antigua


The city reverts to the times of its namesake, as signs of commercialism and globalization render themselves void of meaning during this weekend, and employees of all trades and backgrounds spend their rare days of rest toiling in the preparations of this sacred day.  So, as you scour the flora for that final Easter egg, and greet your brothers and sisters with “The Lord Is Risen”, imagine the scene that is laid before Rosa or Elda, Elsa or Ana, Nora, Luisa or Ruth, and see the women you know as your teacher at Homeschool Spanish Academy in a brand-new, beautiful light.

[1] Semana Santa 2012 In Antigua-

[2] Chosen photos from the best of the celebrations-

[3] More on the traditions in Antigua during Semana Santa-


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