Monday, April 13, 2009

Semana Santa: Pac Man with Easter

April 8-12, 2009 was holy week, or Semana Santa. Apparently Antigua has the largest processions in Central America, but we decided to stay in a smaller town, San Andreas Ixtapa, to experience a more local vibe.

The Catholic contingent of town created alfombras (carpets) throughout the streets using natural materials such as palm flowers, sawdust, fruit, pine cones, and pine needles. The alfombras were beautiful and included vases of flowers (made out of flowers), stenciled portraits of Jesus, and patterns in the pine needles using dyed sawdust. All ages helped. They sprayed down the roads with water, used cardboard cutouts (used year after year) to be precise with the decorations, and carefully spritzed the patterns with water throughout the day to keep it in place. The procession exited the church and walked through town OVER the alfombras. Smooshed and strewn to bits, a crew with shovels and brooms swept up the decorations while folks moved in to create even more elaborate decorations for later in the afternoon.

Imagine a religious version of Pac-Man, eating up stripes of the alfombras throughout the city.

The procession included swinging incense, a float with Jesus, kids scooping up fruit, a small band, a generator and people walking. Carrying the float and walking count as part of their penance. We thought the ceremony that evening was IT, but then, up through Easter Sunday, I saw people creating even more alfombras, sporadically through the streets. I don't know the full score, but there was a lot going on.

I cringe to think of anyone that KNOWS the ceremony in depth reading this. My description: "There was sawdust in pretty colors! The community worked together! They walked for hours in the hot sun! Kids scooped up fruit! Jesus, depicted in various poses, was on a big float!" Oh gee.

The fact is that it was such an honor to witness this tradition, especially in comparison to our "traditions" and the overabundance of chocolate, candy, and plastic figurines.

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