The idea behind embarking on this journey around the world had always been that the world is full opportunity. To find it though, we must be completely open to it. I don’t mean searching through a job site. I mean doing what you are passionate about. For April and I, it is travelling, writing, filming, learning and experiencing local culture. Since our arrival in Antigua, Guatemala we have found so much support for our work featuring local places, people and events. We’ve already had our articles shared on huge social media platforms, been on television and networked with amazing people who respect and admire our choice to put our faith in the universe. Most recently, April and I were invited to partake in a collaborative project creating a traditional alfombra with local school children from Escuela Luis Mena. The project, a yearly tradition sponsored by George’s Travel Club, is intended to educate and encourage participation of children. It also gave us an opportunity to learn a new perspective on the activity, normally a labour of devotion, gratitude and penitence. (More on the cultural understanding of alfombras here.) We teamed up with talented videographer Alex Jones for a new channel called Antigua Cultural. The mini-documentary will feature a complete birth to death time-lapse video of this temporary work of art by the children, through the moment where the single anda Santa Ines procession carries Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary over the alfombra offering. We also had the opportunity to interview the children and their teacher, Alejandro, about the meaning of their project and get first-hand insight into how their young minds attribute significance to this beautiful tradition.
In the weeks leading up to Semana Santa, entrepreneurs from all over Guatemala have been eagerly anticipating the explosion of local and foreign tourism that occurs in Antigua every year during the Lent celebrations. As the population rises in Antigua with each passing day, vendors flock to the city in search of potential customers. With nothing but a small pile of charcoal, a rusty grill and a slab of cast-iron, women begin preparing food in the streets. Over open fire they make fresh tortillas, grilled meats, guacamole, rice and beat-salads which they market to passers-by from the side of the road. Observing the incredible resourcefulness of Guatemalans is nothing short of impressive. Small cash businesses seem to emerge overnight as vendors flood the streets marketing heaps of textiles, elaborate rosaries, small toy sized replicas of the cucuruchos, and of course, typical Guatemalan food and candy. Continue reading
The first article in the series devoted to the Lent celebrations of Antigua, Guatemala introduced the Velaciones, honouring the Catholic icons within their church home.
This week, I explored the concept of the alfombras or carpets created before each procession. These elaborate but temporary works of art are some of the most beautiful displays that can be observed colonial Antigua and the surrounding towns on a weekly basis throughout the 6 weeks of Lent.
I took to the streets to learn how the long-lasting tradition began and why it continues to be important for local people.
What are alfombras?
Alfombras are large hand-made carpets normally created out of brightly coloured sawdust, flowers and vegetation.
When are alfombras the created?
Alfombras are expressly created prior to the arrival of a procession. Depending on the hour the procession will pass, people may spend an entire sleepless night preparing the alfombra.
The bearers of the procession’s andas (the massive display platforms) will then carry the image of Christ and the Virgin Mary over the alfombra, completely destroying it.
Who makes each of the alfombras? Who covers the costs and labour?
On the second Friday of Lent, we joined thousand of people making the pilgrimage to a hilltop church outside of historic, colonial Antigua, Guatemala. The church was packed with wall-to-wall parishioners who came to honour the ‘Venerada Imagen de Jesús Nazareno, Aldea Santa Inés del Montepulciano.’ We were calmly sucked into continuous rotation of Guatemalans trying to reach the pulpit. The altar has been replaced by an exquisitely adorned handmade ‘carpet’ of coloured sawdust, flowers, fruits and vegetable, a cultural staple of Easter in Guatemala. Above the carpet, a nativity scene is set depicting a story from the bible. They come to pray, to ask for forgiveness and to give thanks. And they come to take pictures of the stunning display this year. (Changes every year)