Howdy folks. Herewith, the next installment on my recent Guatemalan adventure. Today, a report on what we discovered while strolling around Antigua Guatemala.
Brief background: Antigua was one of the capitals of the country during the Spanish Empire era. Down the years it’s been destroyed three times by volcanic or seismic ultraviolence, poor thing: First, in 1541 – under a lahar (mudflow) from Agua Volcano; and then in 1717 and 1773 – by earthquakes. How unlucky? After the third time, the authorities wisely decided to move the capital to a safer location – where it still stands today. The ruins of Antigua were abandoned and stood mostly uninhabited for centuries. Shadows of former colonial grandeur can still be seen today in the dozen (!) or so imperial cathedral and church ruins. If the place looks impressive in ruins, I thought, imagine what it must have been like intact and with roofs on!
And here are a few pics depicting daily life in the town. In the background in practically every photo can be seen one or more of the many surrounding volcanoes – three (!) of which are active.
Somehow reminiscent of the central – also colonial – central square and buildings in Cusco, Peru
The view of the town from a nearby hill:
As luck would have it, we were in town for the Semana Santa – aka, Holy Week – celebrations in the run up to Easter. Semana Santa is apparently the second Sunday of Catholic fasting during lent – the first Sunday after Ash Wednesday. Or something very similar – I’m not the most clued-up when it comes to religious holidays; apologies if I got something wrong there.
All the streets are closed to traffic for the day as the streets become 100% pedestrianized for a religious procession. Men wear violet (the color of penitence) smocks and carry floats depicting biblical scenes. Others (not just men) cover the route of the procession with ‘carpets’ hand made out of brightly colored sawdust, flowers and grasses.
Work on the rugs starts just a few days before the parade, but by 9am on the day of the event every single one is ready for the evening’s parade.
The floats are very heavy. They’re carried by up to 50 men on their shoulders in funereal fashion, all swaying a bit under the weight. I wonder how they navigate the floats round the corners of the narrow streets? Alas, I didn’t get to see how…
Ok. That’s all for today folks. We’re off for some Guatemalan volcanism… My dispatch coming to you shortly…