Lent is a particularly sacred time of year in Guatemala. Residents show their devotion by hosting weekly processions in Antigua, one every Sunday in Lent. Each week, a float depicting Jesus is carried into Antigua's Central Park by a group of men who have made payments for the honour of bearing it.
Each week, the procession begins from an outlying district. The locals spend the early part of the day decorating the parade route with artwork made of flowers, grass and dyed sawdust - all the more beautiful, knowing it will be destroyed as soon as the procession crosses its path.
By early evening, we gathered in Central Park to watch the procession arrive, taking our seats on the steps beside the cathedral. The mood was festive at first, but it became somber as the musicians and banner carriers arrived. Volunteers handed out candles to the crowd, and we passed the light from one person to the next.
Finally, the float rounded the corner into the square. Illuminated by its own lights and the candles of the crowd, it swayed back and forth as it progressed slowly through the park. It was the perfect end to our first day in Guatemala, and a wonderful introduction to this beautiful country.