Edgar and I got up early and went to a large procession in a village not far from his condo. I have seen small processions in Hispanic communities in the U.S., but nothing like the way they do it in Guatemala. The procession is part of the Catholic’s Holy Week celebrations but on a scale I couldn’t imagine.
First, people stay up all night decorating the streets. I don’t mean hanging flags or banners along the street, they make intricate carpets in the narrow streets where the procession will go. They use fruit, vegetables and other plants to make beautiful displays on the street. But the most amazing is what they do with sawdust. They dye it in bright colors and spend hours, literally not sleeping all night, to do amazing artwork on the street. There are miles of these carpets and then they are destroyed as the procession walks over them.
The procession itself is hard to explain. Men carry a large platform that has statues of Jesus during the crucifixion through the narrow streets. The platform they were carrying is larger than a semi-trailer and looks like it weighs as much as a loaded one. They had 40 men on each side of the platform and they could only carry it a few blocks before they needed to change carriers. The grimace on their faces told me they were struggling under the weight. They walked in unison so the platform would gently rock side-to-side in rhythm as they slowly moved down the cobblestone streets. Other men with long poles lifted power lines so the statues wouldn’t get snagged. Making the turns on the narrow streets was a feat in itself, they barely fit around the corners. They procession lasts about 12 hours as they slowly wind through the village. Nearly a million people pack the streets, making it nearly impossible to move.
We could only stay a couple of hours because we needed to get back to Guatemala City to meet the other workshop participants. This is one event I’ll come back and document right. Especially since Edgar said there are even larger ones during Holy Week.