The smoke of incense, rising like prayers to heaven
Semana Santa in Antigua Guatemala is a whirlwind of celebrations and processions, a sea of purple robes, and masses of spectators holding their cameras above the crowds to capture it all. It was inspiring and emotional to watch this quiet moment in the children's procession, with such young boys taking on serious roles as bearers of incense, filling the air with white clouds of smoky copal and setting the mood for the flags and float that followed in the procession behind them. A very special moment...
By Sue Manuel, AFAR Local Expert
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Alfombras for Semana Santa in Antigua
Holy week in Antigua Guatemala is an amazing time to see this beautiful colonial city. Semana Santa in Antigua is probably the most beautiful religious celebration in the Americas. All week as you walk around the city, you will see people creating aflombras (carpets) from dyed saw dust or other natural products, such as leaves, fruits and vegetables. The week reaches its high point on Good Friday, when the streets are filled with processions. Each procession consists of either hundreds of men carrying big floats called "andas," with a statue of Christ with a cross, or women carrying an andas with the Virgin Mary. Each procession marches through the alfombras created in the streets. Nothing lasts forever.
By Ken Emery
The Weight of Easter in Antigua
The La Merced procession during Semana Santa in Antigua, Guatemala, is the culmination of a week of celebration, of parades and sand carpets. Having gotten up at 3:00am to watch the cobblestone streets of Antigua transform into works of art created by the city’s residents using colored sand, straw, fruit, flowers and seashells, we made our way to the imposing yellow church, La Merced. At 7:00am the procession of floats begins, emerging from within the church. The artwork is trampled beneath the feet of hundreds of men and women carrying the stupendous weight of wooden floats, many built hundreds of years ago. Men dressed as Roman soldiers, 3 prisoners who were released from jail at dawn, men swinging incense burners, marching bands and the float carriers zig zag through the streets all day long. If ever there was a more glorious celebration of Easter Sunday, I have yet to witness it.
The floral carpets of Semana Santa
During "Semana Santa" (the Holy Week of Easter), every neighborhood gets together to create these beautiful "carpets" - all hand made with flowers. Antigua's streets are so covered in flowers that traffic becomes an absolute nightmare. But it's all worth it for that ephemeral beauty is astonishing!
Holy week is an incredible time to visit Guatemala. The experience was amazing for our entire family. We stayed in Antigua from Monday and left on the Saturday before Easter. The Easter carpets and processions were spectacular. Our photo is a picture of our son, Sammi in front of one of the Easter carpets being worked on. The carpet was sponsored by a local restaurant and after the photo they invited Sammi to take part in the creation of it.