Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Antigua Guatemala: Alfombras

Adding to colonial architecture, ruins of ancient cathedrals and the presence of three imposing volcanoes in its near vicinity, Antigua Guatemala boasts yet another renowned characteristic: it is considered the epicenter of Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebrations in the whole of Guatemala, if not the world. Although an arguable claim, it is impossible not to be smitten by the myriad colors seen spreading through the streets of Antigua between Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, when religious fervor and sugary enthusiasm reach its zenith.

One of the most striking aspects of Easter rituals in Antigua Guatemala is the creation and display of alfombras, or “ridiculously intricate and multicolored carpets” in English, which are made of dyed sawdust, flowers, pine needles, vegetables and whatever else imagination dictates.

Alfombra Antigua Guatemala

Alfombra Antigua Guatemala

Alfombra Antigua Guatemala

Alfombra Antigua Guatemala

Alfombra Antigua Guatemala

Alfombra Antigua Guatemala

Alfombra Antigua Guatemala

Most alfombras created during (and in the weeks leading to) Semana Santa are communal affairs, meaning sometimes neighbors will gather and prepare an alfombra which will stretch along a whole street block. Even smaller carpets will have several people gathered, usually family members, who will display it in front of their house.

Alfombra Antigua Guatemala

Alfombra Antigua Guatemala

Alfombra Antigua Guatemala

Alfombra Antigua Guatemala

Alfombra Antigua Guatemala

Alfombra Antigua Guatemala

Similar to mandalas in Hindu and Buddhist traditions, alfombras are also symbols of impermanence. Following hours of careful planing and execution, sawdust and pine needles will be trampled on by a procession of devout worshippers, who will leave nothing but a faded imprint of colors in their wake, until the next procession is scheduled and sawdust is sprinkled on cobblestone once again…

Alfombra Antigua Guatemala

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6 Responses

  1. Dennis Kopp says:

    Wow FW, that looks incredibly beautiful! I actually had a similar experience many years ago in Guatemala City when the pope came to visit. The people had spent three days to prepare a flower carpet in the length of many kilometers throughout the city. That was one of the most beautiful things I had even seen. Unfortunately after waiting all day in the sun, the pope finally drove in darkness, in a bullet proof glass cage, across the flowers and everything was finished…

    • FW North says:

      Thanks a lot, Dennis! That pope visit must have been quite a spectacle… but yeah, the flower carpets take such a long time to prepare, and then it’s all over in an instant! Good luck and safe travels!

  2. Agness says:

    Incredible experience. That’s something I wish I could do when in Guatemala!

    • FW North says:

      It’s definitely worth it to brave the crowds during Semana Santa. Hope you make it one day! Good luck, Agness!

  3. Ana Diaz says:

    Hi FW North, What a nice post. I would like to post it in my new website (now is under construction). It´ll be a web site dedicated to Antigua Guatemala. Can you authorize me to use this article and photos and of course, giving your credit.

    • FW North says:

      Hi Ana! Thanks a lot for notifying me of your interest. However, I’d rather have everything related to Lunaguava stay in one place. So, thanks but no thanks. I’m sure you’ll be able to find much nicer posts about Antigua to put in your website 🙂 Good luck!

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