Pre-Semana Santa Procession with Alfombras in Jocotenango

(Haga clic aquí para leer en español (click here to read in Spanish): Pre-Semana Santa Procesión con Alfombras en Jocotenango.)

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.

Man working on an ocean themed alfombra using a stencil and colored saw dust in town of Jocotenango, near Antigua, Guatemala.

Man working on an ocean themed alfombra using a stencil and colored saw dust in town of Jocotenango, near Antigua, Guatemala.

Alfombra that includes Noah's Ark in the procession in Jocotenango, Guatemala.

Alfombra that includes Noah's Ark in the procession in Jocotenango, Guatemala.

Head of the procession stepping on the alfombra after Noah's Ark was moved out of the way.

Head of the procession walking on the alfombra right after Noah's Ark was moved out of the way.

Alfrombra with flower basket.

Alfrombra with flower basket.

Long view of alfombras.

Long view of alfombras.

Alfombra with animals made of fruit and vegetables.

Alfombra with animals made of fruit and vegetables.

Women's float further down the procession.

Float to Mary carried by woman further down the procession.

Man working on an alfombra further along the path where the procession will reach later in the day.

Man working on an alfombra further along the path where the procession will reach later in the day.

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!

Please feel free to subscribe to my RSS feed or live bookmarks, leave comments or questions here or to e-mail me directly: eli@eligerzon.com. I love to hear from people and means a lot to me.

Alfombra of a candle, part of the general theme of light in many alfombras.

Alfombra of a candle, part of the general theme of light in many alfombras.

Alfombra made of a butterfly made of pine needles and spraypaint: they guy who made it was still standing and seemed proud of his work in a really nice way!

Alfombra made of a butterfly made of pine needles and spray paint: the young guy who made it was still standing there and seemed proud of his work in a nice way!

Beautiful alfombra of flowers made or flowers.

Beautiful alfombra of flowers made or flowers.

A flower made of flowers from the same alfombra as above.

A flower made of flowers from the same alfombra as above.

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7 Comments

Filed under Antigua, beautiful art, Guatemala, Semana Santa

7 responses to “Pre-Semana Santa Procession with Alfombras in Jocotenango

  1. I’m greatly enjoying reading your blog! I love hearing of your travels, and seeing the lovely pictures. Thanks for sharing!

    Peace,
    Idzie

  2. worldschooler

    Thanks Idzie! I really like your blog too! You take the unschooling philosophy further in a way I think is very important. Thanks for making the first comment on my blog!

  3. Incredible, eli. thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  4. Diana Snodgrass

    Too bad the carpets don’t last longer.

  5. Matthew Greene

    Hi Eli,

    Thank you so much for sharing these beautiful photos of the Alfombras of Semana Santa. My partner is teaching his students about this, and actually making them in his classroom (High School Spanish II). He’d asked me to find photos and information on the Alfombras to use in his lesson. I hope it’s alright if he shares some of your pictures with his classes. I don’t think they can imagine the richness of detail, and amount of work that goes into making them. Your photos are truly beautiful!!

    Matt

    • Hi Matt,
      So glad you found my alfombras photos! Honestly, the most difficult thing for me was deciding which of my photos to post: there were so many amazing alfombra carpets there during Semana Santa.

      Please tell your partner to feel to use them in his Spanish class! Glad to hear he’s incorporating this stuff into his lesson. If he doesn’t mind just referring to my name (Eli Gerzon) and my blog that’d be great. My blog actually moved to my main site: http://eligerzon.com/blog

      And this exact same post can be found there: http://eligerzon.com/blog/2009/03/procession-with-alfombras-in-jocotenango/

      I’ll try to post more photos (like I said there were many more) from that same event on my blog soon. Or I can also send you some by e-mail if you want.

      -Eli

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