We safety arrived, on time with all of our luggage, this morning in Guatemala. Our dear friend Desi was waiting for us outside the airport and we started our adventure immediately.
Holy Week is very serious in Guatemala, but especially in Antigua where we are staying. The banks were all closed on Wednesday and won't reopen until next week. A lot of businesses are closed to observe the holiday, other than those directly serving the almost one million people who will descend to witness the celebration.
The Catholic Church in Guatemala holds processions all week leading up to Good Friday. Good Friday is filled with special masses and extravagant celebrations. The most noticeable celebrations are the processions that travel through the streets of Antigua. Families along the route construct elaborate "carpets" from colored sawdust, flowers, fruits and vegetables as a path for the procession. We had the extreme privilege of being invited to help create one of the alfombras. Apparently, it is rare for outsiders to be allowed to work on these beautiful creations but Desi was invited to join a family and we were welcomed as well.
We spent 4 hours with Robert's family this afternoon. His parents, wife, daughter, and extended family all worked on the alfombra. They have continued this tradition for the past 12 years, since the processional route was changed to pass in front of their home. Our alfombra is completely made of sawdust, carefully stencilled into designs.
As we were traveling back to the hotel we encountered the beginning of the processional. I have never seen something this extravagant before. The smell of incense is your first hint that the processional is nearing. You begin to hear the horns and drums and then you see the float. This particular float depicted Jesus carrying his cross after his sentencing. The ornate float is carried by individuals throughout the streets.
What I find curious about all of this is that they celebrate Good Friday so much but not the Resurrection. Even in a culture who is so religious, there is still areas to teach and grow.