The buzz throughout the city of Antigua is infectious on the Wednesday before Easter; although the Semana Santa celebrations (Holy Week) don’t “officially” kick off until the morning of Holy Thursday, the colorfully picturesque town of Antigua, Guatemala has been milking this holiday for the past two weeks with early Semana Santa processions and mini-carpets of offerings. And though the Antiguans start the celebrations early, Wednesday is when actual true madness starts to descend once the tourists flood into Antigua.
Antigua is like a city taken right out of Disney world – all of the buildings maintain a uniform size, color-scheme, and the beautiful traditional Baroque and weathered colonial architecture harken’s back to a time of strong Spanish influence hundreds of years ago. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage site, which means the town can never stray too far from just precisely and exactly what it looks like right now – which is a tiny slice of colorful, colonial Spain.
If the town looks a bit Disney-fied under the best of circumstances (which it does…it’s just so pristine and out of place compared to other Guatemalan cities) once Semana Santa kicks off this tiny eight block by eight block city swells in size to accommodate all of the tourists and Guatemalans from all over the country who overwhelm the city.
I’ve been looking forward to Semana Santa in Antigua for quite some time now – photos of the amazing sawdust carpets, the parades of mourning that reenact the last days of Christ, it’s all one of those experiences that I feel may only come once in a lifetime, so I was fully ready to brave the crowds and pickpockets (unfortunately they’re here…and several backpackers had their purses razored because they weren’t cautious) to experience one of the largest Semana Santa celebrations this side of Atlantic (I hear that only Seville, Spain has larger Holy Week festivities).
Semana Santa in Antigua was such an incredibly unique experience that I’ve got quite a few videos and special stories coming this week. The city is perhaps best known for the amazingly detailed alfombras, or carpets, that residents spend dozens of hours creating.
The parades and marches strike melancholy in your heart as the dirges of the musicians moan through the air on Holy Thursday and Good Friday – the town literally reenacts Christ’s last days and the town takes on a somber note as Romans march through the streets condemning Christ to death and processions of mourners take to the streets to follow the elaborate floats.
And the food and people were just amazingly unique this week, so stay tuned for videos and more Semana Santa Easter celebrations…Antigua style!