I mentioned last post that I went to an amazing pre-Semana Santa procession with “alfombra” sculptures in Jocotenango, a town next to Antigua, Guatemala on Sunday, March 15. “Semana Santa”, means “Holy Week” and takes place the week of Easter but there seems to be very big festivals leading up to it. This procession began at a church in the center of Jocotenango, went around that town and then ended in Antigua at another church at 11:30pm.
All along the way people are building these unbelievable “alfombra” sculptures on the path of the procession, made of colored saw dust, wood chips, pine needles, vegetables, fruit, palm tree seed pods, plastic figurines, and many, many flowers. Some larger 3D sculptures, like one of Noah’s arc, are saved right before the procession comes but most of it is trampled by the procession and cleaned up afterwards. It reminded me of those Buddhists sand mandalas that are also soon destroyed after they are made.
There was of course a lot of religious symbolism and words about love and light, but also lots of fish and birds in the art which I found interesting. It was truly unbelievable how much beauty, creativity, dedication, and fun was involved in the whole festival. And this is just what they do. There’s such richness, colorfulness, and beauty here.
For me it really is unbelievable what they create. It makes me wonder what we could create in “my culture”. I’m not sure what “my culture” is! There’s definitely something unique about each person and group but there’s something in common among the festivals and the markets I’ve been to in Guatemala, Mexico, and Thailand. There’s something in the air, there’s a richness that comes into being so naturally it seems.
I have a suspicion there’s a birthright to a richness of soul that we have lost in the U.S. Part of the reason I travel is to learn how to reclaim that birthright. I’m not saying we should have processions with alfombras in the U.S. The point is these gatherings and creations have to come from deep within the self and the group. But it seems there’s something we can learn from these countries we often look down on or pity. I’m glad I’m from where I’m from and they do deserve our compassion and our help in many areas, especially since the U.S. has been the cause of so many of the problems in these other countries. But there’s some very important things we can learn from them.
I just started taking some Spanish lessons which is a popular activity among travelling foreigners in Antigua and many other places in Latin America. But it’s the first time I’ve ever been formally taught Spanish! I’ll post about it soon. But it’ll only be a few days for now because I’ll be going to the beaches of Honduras this weekend!
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