Friday, April 19, 2019

Guatemalan Alfombras During Semana Santa

Guatemalan Alfombras during Semana Santa

Today, I'm delighted to share this post written by Shannon Alvarez, who is living in Guatemala with her family and agreed to write up what she observed about Guatemalan alfombras during Semana Santa. Thank you, Shannon!

Hola A Todos!

Our family has now been living in Guatemala for the past eight months! We live about 15 minutes outside the city of Antigua. What a beautiful country Guatemala is!

After many years of watching from afar, we were finally able to be here during the Easter/Holy Week season. Every weekend in Antigua, there are processions and alfombras (carpets) made during the month preceding Easter.

Guatemalan Alfombras during Semana Santa

Guatemalan Alfombras during Semana Santa

Guatemalan Alfombras during Semana Santa

Guatemalan Alfombras during Semana Santa

Guatemalan Alfombras during Semana Santa

Guatemalan Alfombras during Semana Santa


Here's a link to the churches and convents of Antigua, Guatemala.

And here's a link to see the live route and more information.

There are local families, art schools, and other organizations who create their alfombras in Antigua.  The tourist season is very high and the traffic is crazy! We were happy to stay home and watch the local procession from our rooftop. Many of the little towns have set days when their church does the processions through their town.

Guatemalan Alfombras during Semana Santa

Guatemalan Alfombras during Semana Santa

Guatemalan Alfombras during Semana Santa

Guatemalan Alfombras during Semana Santa

The alfombras cover the streets - a beautiful display of art! The alfombras are all unique and designed by the families displaying them. There is no set area assigned, but many people make theirs outside their house.  Some are made of grass, flowers, vegetables, and/or fruit. Some are made of sawdust (serrín). The serrín is bought in its natural color and then each family dyes it to the colors they want for their design. Many use natural methods for dyeing, using fruits, herbs, etc.

Guatemalan Alfombras during Semana Santa

Guatemalan Alfombras during Semana Santa

Guatemalan Alfombras during Semana Santa

Stencils are made for the designs you want to create with your sawdust.  Depending on the complexity of the design made, some families begin their alfombras around 3 to 4 am. The procession in our area began at 10am outside the Catholic Church, where there gathered a large group of the town who attend that church. There are two platforms/floats in this particular church’s procession.

Each year, the decorations and forms change. Urban areas may have more extravagant decorations, while the smaller towns tend to be more simple. The larger floats may be so large they require over 100 people to carry them. The ones in our town require around 60 people to carry them, with people taking turns as they pass through the streets. Men carried the float with Jesus and the cross, while the women carried a float with the Virgin Mary. The men wear purple and white gowns to symbolize the royalty and purity of Jesus.

Guatemalan Alfombras during Semana Santa

Guatemalan Alfombras during Semana Santa

The procession begins at the church when the people carry the floats through the main streets of the town, and hours later, return back to the church,  The people walk surrounding the floats, singing, praying, some carrying incense. There are musicians who follow behind as well. Everyone walks over the alfombras!

Once the procession has passed by, the alfombras are swept up and thrown away. It was very sad to see all that hard work gone within such a short amount of time. The procession returned to the church around 3:00 and by 3:30, there was little sign of the alfombras on any of the streets! A fleeting work of art!

Guatemalan Alfombras during Semana Santa

I learned other interesting bits of information from talking with a local friend. Cascarones are made here, but only used on the Tuesday of Carnival. During this time of year, families will eat a cabbage salad called curtido, which is made purple from the ingredients in it. This is also the only time of year when people will eat empanadas. They can be found other times of the year, but the majority of people will only eat them during the Semana Santa season.

This is a very special time for families here as they spend time together and reflect on their faith and lives going forward in the year. We are so blessed to be able to witness the beauty of the culture around us!


If you'd like to see video of the procession, check out the one Shannon took. The video is rough between :10 and 1:15 (probably due to internet connection during upload), but the video portions before and after that are clear.

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