Semana Santa — Holy Easter Week in Antigua, Guatemala

Posted by - April 21, 2011 | Category: Escapes, Guatemala, North America

Semana Santa — Holy Easter Week in Antigua, Guatemala

The first time I went to Guatemala was in 2003, when I spent a few weeks in Antigua in a misguided attempt to learn some basic Spanish.  One thing I did learn was how important the Holy Week (Semana Santa) celebrations are in the region.  After reading about massive floats being carried through narrow streets, and seeing pictures of the intricate carpet designs the faithful painstakingly create, I added Semana Santa in Antigua to my bucket list.

Since I was in El Salvador for work last year (I know, life is hard), my friend Mario — a co-worker and Guatemala native — suggested we drive up for the weekend.  Accommodations are normally booked months in advance, but Mario has some mighty fine connections, so we were able to stay a friend’s place just outside of Antigua.

Holy Easter Week in Antigua, Guatemala

Although the festivities actually start on Ash Wednesday (which marks the beginning of Lent), the celebrations reach their peak during Holy Week.  For the entire week, there are processions that wind their way through crowds of locals, tourists, and the faithful.

Semana Santa Ladies Leader -- Semana Santa -- Holy Easter Week Good Friday Easter Sunday in Antigua, Guatemala

The leader of the ladies attempts to guide the float

Semana Santa Ladies Procession -- Holy Easter Week Good Friday Easter Sunday in Antigua, Guatemala

The Ladies Procession is a crowd favourite

Semana Santa spectator

Looking on...

Piety and Pain Holy Easter Week Good Friday Easter Sunday in Antigua, Guatemala

Piety and Pain

Semana Santa Ladies -- Holy Easter Week Good Friday Easter Sunday in Antigua, Guatemala 1

Concentration in the moment...

Flowers lay undisturbed

Flowers lay undisturbed, until the procession moves through

Semana Santa Jesus carrying the cross -- Holy Easter Week Good Friday Easter Sunday in Antigua, Guatemala

Carrying the cross...

Semana Santa aftermath

After the procession, the souvenir scavengers swoop...

Semana Santa After the Procession -- Holy Easter Week Good Friday Easter Sunday in Antigua, Guatemala

Making a few pesos after the parade

Making the Designs carpets for procession -- Holy Easter Week Good Friday Easter Sunday in Antigua, Guatemala

Getting ready for the next day's procession

Making the intricate floral patterns -- Easter week Antigua -- Alfombras de Aserrin -- Carpets of Sawdust

Making the intricate carpets

Semana Santa Preparations Alfombras de Aserrin Carpets of Sawdust Holy Easter Week Antigua Guatemala

More preparations for the next procession

The Alfombras de Aserrin (literally,Carpets of Sawdust) is the most famous part of the celebration.  The intricate designs are made of flowers, seeds, vegetables, fruit, and…well…coloured sawdust.

The amazing thing is how much time goes into making each of these designs.  There are dozens of them throughout the town, which are trampled during the processions.  Locals then re-create them in time for the next procession. It’s an amazing sight.  I hope to post some photos of one of the night processions next.

In the meantime, I’d like to know — what religious festivals have you been to? What has been your favourite? Have you ever been to Semana Santa in Antigua Guatemala? 

Antigua Guatemala

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37 comments - add one
    1. While I was there I saw carpet designs being created in other towns as well. A lot of neighbours would just gather together and create their own in more off the beaten path spots. It was really amazing…

  1. I’d love to see the carpet designs close up one day. My niece just spent a week in Guatemala doing volunteer work on her spring break and she had some similar shots of them from a religious celebration. How impressive to take so much time out to do the work, only to have them destroyed quickly when people walk across them. Even though I am not very religious myself, I really appreciate the devotion some people have and show to their faith.

  2. Fantastic shots! We were in Antigua during a funeral procession, which was really reminiscent of this festival albeit smaller in scale. During the procession, the family and friends of the deceased marched the casket through the streets.

    1. Unfortunately I missed out on the Semana Santa celebrations when I was in the Philippines. I had to fly back home on Easter Saturday due to a death in the family. I hope to get back there again one day though to see it, especially the actual crucifixions in Pampanga!

  3. Great photos on Holy Week in Guatemala! I know in many Latin American countries this is a huge week to celebrate. I got to see some of the floats the the famous Virgin in Sevilla for their Holy Week celebration.

  4. I love the different ways in which Easter week is celebrated around the world. We loved New Year’s in Guatemala, but have yet to see Easter there. Thanks for sharing, Raymond.

    1. New Year’s must have been excellent — I can just imagine how colourful and loud it would have been. Were there guns? I’m thinking there must be gunfire somewhere in there… 🙂

  5. Looks like an incredible experience. I miss Central America for these types of things, I’m in Buenos Aires right now and they don’t really celebrate the holiday.

  6. Such intricate celebrations! We’re in Cordoba, Argentina and the mall was open on Good Friday as well as several shops. Today it’s Saturday and everyone is out with most places open for shopping. Didn’t see anyone doing anything special at the churches.

  7. Wow, I didn’t know some of those carpets we’re made of sawdust. Also didn’t know how they made those elaborate patterns. Pretty interesting. I saw the beginning of Lent in Antigua earlier this year. I wish I had stayed longer to see the whole celebration.

  8. Those intricately made carpets look so real! Incredible how they take so much time and care over them.
    Always a joy when there’s a festival in progress!