After a pretty physically disgusting (referring to my own personal health issues, not the environmental landscape of the outside world) and very difficult 5 days (4 of which involved traveling somewhere other than the bathroom), Logan and I made it to Antigua, Mike having forged ahead a day before us…
La Antigua is incredible…a beautiful, cobblestoned “Spanish” colonial city cozily nestled at the base of several behemoth volcanoes, at least 1 of which (Volcan del Fuego) belches smoke not infrequently and last significantly erupted in September, 2012. Antigua’s Spanish Baroque ruins are interspersed amongst chic restaurants and bars, local fruit vendors, and indigenous Mayan women peddling their beautiful and intricately woven textiles. These architectural “victims” of recurrent earthquakes vary in degree of dilapidation, but each of them retain enough of their original majesty to lend an eerie living yet dead sort of shadow to the entire city.
As luck would have it, we made it here, in time to experience 2 of the Lenten processionals that lead up to Semana Santa. Each Sunday in Lent, one of the local parishes sponsors a procession through the streets of Antigua. Elaborate and beautiful carpets, or alfombras, constructed using dyed sawdust, flowers, pine needles, and other primarily organic materials adorn the processions’ path and are promptly destroyed by the tramplings of Roman centurions, creepily cloaked penitents (who kind of resemble KKK members with an ironic love for the ” Color Purple”), and the devoted bearers of the up to 8,000 pound andas (floats) that are topped with pretty graphic and frightening scenes depicting some aspect of Jesus’ cruxifiction. The ephemeral nature if the alfombras makes them even more beautiful and a true testament to the devotion of their creators.
After a few days in Antigua, we made our way to the ridiculously beautiful Lake Attitlan and one of its many small pueblos, San Pedro. Logan and I took 4 days of Spanish lessons, which really only served to reinforce my afore drawn conclusion that my brain is just too age (and, maybe a little substance) addled to ever learn this language. The little town was cool, but with all of its European tourists and expatriots, along with their restaurants and bars, ended up feeling pretty absent in its Guatemalaness until, not completely surprisingly, my parasitic visitors decided to recommence partying in my intestines.
Enough said…we returned to Antigua in time to experience our 2nd Lenten processional and begin planning our next move.
Baby coffee plants at Finca Filadelfia.
Our guide at Finca Filadefia knew absolutely everything about coffee. It was probably one of the best educational ‘tours’ I have ever taken.
Raw coffee drying in the ‘parchment’ stage.
Props awaiting Semana Santa festivities in Antigua.
There are a lot of beautiful old churches that all harbor evidence of past earthquakes.
An interesting Frida themed jukebox.
The markets here are amazing… and cheap.
Chiltepin peppers in the market. This is probably enough heat to wipe out a small country.
On the street of San Pedro de La Laguna.
The traditional gentlemen wear an interesting combination of patterns here.
A view of Lago Atitlan with Volcanoes Atitlan (left) and Toliman (center) and San Pedro (far right).
Another view from San Marcos.
Loading some avocados on the dock at San Marcos.
This gentleman os preparing a sling to carry this massive load using his forehead… the typical method of transport in Guatemala.
Met this guy, Land, in San Pedro. He started his tour in Mexico City and decided to pull a nice bike-ballet move when I asked for a photo.
A stop on our way up to Nariz de Indio (Indian Nose).
This is Indian Nose… a pretty good hike/climb.
A nice view of Atitlan from above.
Gin taking a load off in the tower atop Indian Nose.
Some interesting freshwater crabs in the Santa Clara market.
In the Santa Clara market.
Our guides hat in superimposed with cotton candy.
One of the many carpets for the procession in Antigua.
Alfombras made of flowers, dyed sawdust and other interesting media.
During the procession these get trampled and immediately cleaned up by a crew that follows the massive procession.
The procession highlight is this massive 3.5 ton teak float (containing elements dating back to the 17th century) that gets carried by an ever-rotating crew of faithful men in purple robes. An emotional event, even if you are not religious. Another major aspect of the procession are the Marchas Funebras – This is the Spanish phrase for funeral marches. Music plays a big role in Semana Santa processions, cueing various actions and setting an appropriately somber mood. The sound is not unlike the brass bands associated with classic New Orleans second-line funeral processions.
A detail of the float. Some of the sculptural images are slightly disturbing.
Only men carry andas with Jesus on them. Only women carry andas with the Virgin Mary on them. Originally done as penance with the faces of the bearers covered, it’s now clearly an honor to carry the load of an anda.
Another group in the procession.
The whole procession is permeated with incense.
A man carrying a miniature model.
The families making the ‘carpets’ know precisely when the procession will come through their neighborhood and finish their design only hours or minutes before the fruits of their labor are trampled by the massive group.