Lent in Antigua Guatemala is solemnity

Second Sunday of Lent, Antigua Guatemala

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Lent in Antigua Guatemala is a blend of solemnity and light-heartedness, with many homes and businesses draping their doors and windows in Lenten purple.  Each Sunday during this forty day period is a time set aside for church processions, a prelude to the larger and more elaborate demonstrations of faith that take place during Samana Santa or Holy Week.

Yolkobsens are lucky to live on a street on which almost all of the Lent and Holy Week processions travel.  By the time we had experienced our first Lenten Sunday, we had witnessed the sincere and arduous efforts of procession participants as they shouldered extremely heavy depictions of Easter themes over many cobblestone streets.   We also saw the efforts of our neighbors as they prepared for the procession to cross their front doorways.

Many of our barrio faithful build modest carpets of pine and flowers, intended to honor the Lenten themes of restraint and sacrifice. And, though spectators are highly respectful of the participants in the procession, the atmosphere curbside is light and provides a chance for neighbors to talk and touch base with one another.  Also, in advance of the processions are the street hawkers, selling everything from carmel corn to  dolls wearing the same Lent purple robes and hoods worn by hundreds of participants.  Out of respect, the vendors do not directly mingle their commerce with the religious parade and keep well ahead.

By the time of the second Lent Sunday, Yolkobsens and their visiting gringo friends had decided that they also wanted to build a Lenten floral and pine carpet to receive the procession.  Though as a group we comprised two lapsed Catholics, a Jew and a Buddhist, we were intent on making the best Lent style carpet we could muster to honor the season and the sincere efforts and sacrifice of the procession participants.  We even knew that it was the Santa Ines congregants and supporters who would be taking their turn marshalling the procession.

To ensure that we didn’t stumble too much, we enlisted the aid of a bone fide Guatemalan.  Expert guide and adviser on all things Guatemalan is Dahr, who was on loan to us from Georges Travel Club of Guatemala.   And a good thing, too.

Saturday found us at Antigua Guatemala market, buying a 10 kilo bag of long pine needles, the kind that give off a singular perfume when doused with water. We also bought several bouquets of Babies Breath, small pale lilies and bold yellow chrysanthemums.

The procession, which began at the Santa Ines church in a pueblo just a few kilometers outside Antigua Guatemala, began at 11 a.m.  By the time they got to our street near the centre of the town, it was almost 4:30.  We could see that the walking and carrying of these ponderous floats were taking their toll on the participants, but still they persisted.

We were honored when they walked across our bed of pine and flowers, crushing this gentle tribute as they went.  When they had passed our carpet, children and some of their parents collected the flowers that had survived and put them into a sweet bouquet of remembrance.

The procession then made its way further,through the town’s streets, stopping in front of the main cathedral as dusk came.  After the blessing from the church’s padre, the procession started to make its way back through more streets and then through almost 3 kilometers of dark trekking to get their depictions of saints and Chris’ sufferings back to the safety of their home church.


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