Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Faces of Devotion

ANTIGUA:  For all the glitz and tourism that has come to this highland town since the end of Guatemala’s civil war in the early 1990s, its heart remains the same: the devotions and processions of Holy Week.

Like that of Seville, Spain, Antigua’s outpouring of public displays of traditional Catholicism is a spectacle that hearkens back to the days when the Church was not simply a place to frequent on Sundays, or to ignore altogether, but a powerful force that ruled imperiously while it brought communities together in their own ways of sharing beliefs.  

Neighbors construct a carpet of colored sawdust.

While others watch, and wait for the procession to pass.

In these forty days of Lent the images of the suffering Christ, his mother the Madonna and saints immediately recognizable by the faithful are taken from the churches where they reside. 

 It is a huge effort, but an honor to carry the statues through the streets amid clouds of incense on heavy platforms called andas, walking upon carpets of sawdust, pine needles and flowers carefully constructed over hours by neighbors. 


As local bands march along with the procession, music floats over the town. 

The exertion and piety are themselves a kind of prayer.