Guatemala Highlands Journal

April 12
April 13
April 14

April 15
April 16

April 17

April 18

April 19
April 18

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.

On our way to La Merced we passed dozens of alfombras spread almost end to end. They ranged from simple to magnificent, but they were all composed by people with the same fervor and belief in what they were doing.

alfomb lm1a.jpg (59347 bytes)

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.

thieves_pana.jpg (119867 bytes)

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.

The La Merced procession was only the first of four processions to be found around the city.  la merced alfa.jpg (51593 bytes)

Everywhere we walked there were alfombras in various stages of completion. 

effigya.jpg (48796 bytes) We also saw a couple of effigies of a "Judas" with wills or testamentos, hanging from poles around the city. Originally these testamentos were political statements but more recently they have focused on misdeeds in the community.

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. 

The float held the crucified form of Jesus in a gold and glass casket and was lit with crystal chandeliers. The Virgin followed on her own float with her gold halo and was also spectacularly lit. The atmosphere surrounding this float was one of solemnity and awe. It was the first one we had seen at night and was absolutely memorable. night processiona.jpg (58829 bytes)

April 19

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.

cath pana.jpg (98958 bytes)

We thought it might be a special form of penance as the difficulty of holding the float for so long would be tremendous. 

The thousands of viewers carried lit candles and since we didnít have one, the Guatemalan couple standing next to us gave us one of theirs. A gesture truly from the heart. cath candlea.jpg (31114 bytes)

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