Semana Santa is the time of year when the Jacaranda trees are filled with purple blooms and purple costumes start filling Antigua’s streets. Each spring Antigua, Guatemala draws people from all over the world for Semana Santa (Holy Week). If you can imagine an event bigger than Christmas then it is Semana Santa in Antigua. Activities leading up to Semana Santa start at Lent (Ash Wednesday) and continue through to Easter Sunday, peaking on Good Friday. During the week of Semana Santa visitors flock to Antigua to view the processions. It has been reported that over 200,000 people visit Antigua around the time of Semana Santa.
Why is Semana Santa such a big event in Antigua? To understand why you need a little insight into the history of Antigua. Antigua was founded in 1543, as the seat of Spanish colonial government. By 17th century Antigua was one of the richest capitals in the New World, surpassed only by Mexico City and Lima. Finch notes that by 1773 Antigua had over 30 churches, 18 convents and monasteries, 15 hermitages, 10 chapels and other outstanding architectural structures. Many of the buildings were destroyed or damaged during 1773 earthquake. Antigua, Guatemala's top tourist destination is also well known for its perfect spring like climate and colonial charm (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Today's Antigua however, is a city steeped in rich traditions from its colonial past.
A time for processions and alfrombras
This year, as in previous years the processions start after the arrival of Lent. Most the processions happen on the weekend and usually pass through the Central Plaza in route to their final destination. After the arrival of Lent, the streets of Antigua again see the colorful "alfrombas"or aromatic carpets. The carpets are made from materials such as, dyed sawdust and sand, flowers and pine needles (see images). The alfrombas tend to increase in number and become more elaborate as it gets closer to Semana Santa.
Antigua's Semana Santa is known for costumed processions, reenactments of the crucifixion and other ceremonies. For day-by-day happenings in Antigua see Antigua Daily Photo. Also check out James Foley's pictures of Semana Santa and Uncornered Market's digital story telling of Antigua's Semana Santa. Kristen Hubbard at About describes many of the activities associated with Semana Santa. For a detailed description of activities see a QuestConnect article. Also check out The Gringo Chapin article on Semana Santa.
A time for special foods
All Guatemalan celebrations include food as a big part of the celebrations. There are many special foods associated with Semana Santa. All about Guatemala has posted recipes of some common foods (Elotes Locos, Nuegados) sold by street vendors during Semana Santa. Some of the foods popular around this time include fish, chickpeas, torrejas (Guatemalan French Toast), encurtidos, candied fruit, cooked fresh fruit, tobic (vegetable, beef and cabbage soup), killim (chicken in seasoned sauce, served with rice and potatoes), joch (hot drink made from corn, barley and cinnamon) and small doughnuts.
© Sharon Parsons
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