We are constantly amazed at the generosity and goodness of the Guatemalan people. Last Saturday we were finishing our housecleaning when the bell rang and Jose, an employee in our apartment/office building, was here to visit with his sons, Daniel, Julian and Rodrigo. It was really fun to meet them, as we had only seen the littlest, Daniel, in the past year. The boys are out of school this week for the Semana Santa break.
We made arrangements with our dear friend and taxi driver, Jaime, to take us to see the alfombras that were being made in celebration of the holiday. Since the Catholic bodega (storage area) is next to our building, the road was filled with these processional carts about the time Jaime was to arrive. We walked down the street on the other side where he was able to stop briefly to pick us up.
Friends exchange gifts this time of year and Jose was very kind to bring us a loaf of the traditional Guatemalan Semana Santa bread. It is delicious and not unlike our hot cross buns. Another friend brought us sweetened garbanzo beans, a traditional favorite treat.
Our first stop with Jaime was the park/cathedral two blocks from our apartment. The roads are closed to traffic, so we walked through the area to catch a glimpse of the alfombras being made there. They are made with colored sawdust and are barely completed before they are destroyed by the carts/processions representing the story of Christ's crucifixion.
More of the processional carts outside the office.
Next we headed to Centro to the different Catholic churches to see what each congregation was putting together for their celebration. We watched them with stencils in hand, creating the different patterns in the alfombras.
This church's ancient tradition is to create an alfombra from pine needles. The edges are trimmed with flowers and apples encircled with peanuts. The bags on the pine needles are alligators and turtles-decorative bread from the local bakery, bagged in plastic.
Side view of the pine needle alfombra.
A fish alfombra nearby, showing the containers of colored sawdust being used to create the images.
We were being extra careful to not disturb this lovely art, and didn't want to get too close to the pine needle alfombra in order to capture this rendering of the Virgin Mary. The men close by encouraged Mike to step onto the pine to get the best photo possible of her face. They were very excited to have us share in their celebration, even if we had on our Mormon missionary tags.
As we were driving away, this flete filled with people from the city of Almalonga was trying to figure out how to navigate all of the closed roads. Jaime instructed them, then had them follow him as he led them to their turn-off. This is a typical mode of transportation here. The weekend we were in Panajachel we counted 26 people in the back of one truck.
These men are spraying the alfombras with water to keep them from being blown by the wind prior to the procession, which destroys them. The streets, littered with a massive amount of colored sawdust, are then cleaned by the young men of the church. Jaime said about 75 young men will clean this road later tonight.
Near Parque Central families are gathered to enjoy the weekend celebration. It is a wonderful time for them to relax and enjoy time off from work and school.
We have seen this alfombra from the bottom of the hill, and Jaime drives us to the top to get the opposite view. It's a really lovely tradition and we're grateful they are willing to let us get a close-up view of their celebration.