Guatemala Highlands Journal
Today was probably the most magnificent of all our days in Guatemala. We arose at 4:45am to get to the main square by 5:00am. During the night, "soldiers" rode through town on horseback, stopping at each corner to proclaim the sentencing of Jesus to the sound of trumpets. We had heard them through the night and were hoping to catch them at the square. But when we arrived all we could find were lots of sleepy tourists and Guatemaltecos who apparently had been up all night working on and watching people work on the alfombras for the Good Friday procession from La Merced church. Oh well.
Upon arriving at La Merced, we finally found the Roman soldiers astride their horses. There we joined the thousands of other people waiting for the rising of the sun and the departure of the procession from the church. We were also able to see the sentencing of the thieves.
With the pounding of drums and the funeral band, the procession began. The swirling copal created a mystical atmosphere and the drums went right to the soul. The straining of the carriers was reflected in the looks on their faces and the procession moved into the streets to continue for nine hours around the city.
Everywhere we walked there were alfombras in various stages of completion.
At 11:00am, a re-creation of the crucifixion of Christ took place in front of the cathedral in the main square. Many more thousands of people watched this ceremony. The figures used in the re-creation were very life-like and sent a chill down my spine.
At 3:00pm a procession left from San Jose Cathedral, at 4:00pm a procession left from San Felipe church and one also from Escuela de Christo. This procession would eventually come right past our hotel and not finish until 2:00am. This one was truly spectacular.
Today being the day after the crucifixion, the processions included only the figure of the Virgin and were performed solely by the women. The alfombras were not quite as numerous but they were equally beautiful. In the early evening a ceremony was held outside the downtown cathedral with the women carrying a float with the Virgin. This procession appeared to be more arduous than the others in that the carriers stood in place carrying the float for long periods of time.
We thought it might be a special form of penance as the difficulty of holding the float for so long would be tremendous.