Greetings from Jeanne:
In my last post I talked about taking a few days off from Semana Santa, which we did on Tuesday and Wednesday last week. I got some research done, and we caught up on sleep a bit. We were back in the fray of the events on Thursday through Easter Sunday. On Thursday we went out in the late afternoon and followed the procession route backwards, watching people create alfombras, readying for the procession. We ran into our friend's house manager and spent the rest of the afternoon with Maria and her extensive family in her house, watching the procession from this site on the street. The cucuruchos were in purple and white again, and this one was carried by the young boys in the city. After the procession we went to a play at a local small restaurant where the actors were acting as cooks and waitresses in a madcap kitchen. In this comedy whatever the actors were preparing was what we were eating from the kitchen. It was fun and interesting. When we were walking home after 10 the rains had begun and the already created alfombras were washing down the streets of Antigua.
The next day was Good Friday and the most celebrated in the city. Unfortunately, Tom was feeling a bit under the weather and was unable to spend the day with Maria's family for the multiple processions. I met the family at the front door to the house at 5am and started the day with a long stroll through the the alfombras that were being formed and reformed. These were exceptional in length, design, and color. The pictures of this collection is on Jeanne's facebook and labeled Semana Santa final weekend. There was a strong sense of the gravity of the day Jesus dies. The alfombra in front of Maria's house was constructed by a group of five men who designed a beautiful design of all flowers, which was not observed anywhere else. The procession was filled with Roman soldiers on horseback, in carriages, thousands of cucuruchos carrying the image of Jesus carrying the cross, Mary weeping at the inevitable, and thousands of people on the street watching this amazing event. Women were crying and emotions were running high. I joined the family and friends for a seafood lunch at Maria's and during lunch Maria told us of one of the church's practice of taking Jesus from the cross before the final procession of the dead Christ was processed through town that evening. The description of the life-like limbs, etc encouraged a group of use to head out for 10 blocks to see this next event.
We made it to Escuela de Cristo in time to witness the removal of the Christ figure from the cross, along with thousands of others who had crowded in the church. We were in the back but observed an amazing site. The joints of this figure were flexible in a way that as the body was removed, the limbs flexed and gave the appearance of a person being taken from a cross. We stood outside with a massive, packed crowd who observed the evening procession of Jesus in a glass coffin, carried by 90 cucuruchos, all in black, led by 3-D floats of the stations of the cross, followed by an anda (float) with Mary carried by 70 women. Everyone was dressed in black robes, and some of the men in the lead of the long, long procession wore pointed hats with black face covers, with nets for eyes. The entire procession was amazingly somber, and though were standing among thousands of devout people, there was absolute silence as the long procession worked its way for 10 hours through the city. To add to the intensity, it began to rain a few hours later, delaying the arrival of the procession at Maria's house. I arrived back home around 10pm. Tom was feeling better, so we talked and I showed him my pictures.
On Saturday before Easter we took a public bus to the village of San Lorenzo, the pueblo of my Spanish teacher Angela. We walked along the roads watching people create alfombras of great detail, mostly in sawdust. The procession was small in size, as was the church, and the only anda was Mary, who was carried by around 40 women. What made this particularly day so intriguing was the procession in which every person in the village who had come out to observe the salida (exit from the church), walked in the procession all the way through the village.
On Easter Sunday we walked to San Pedro church in town and were looking for alfombras along the route and found none, except for a rather long one leading to the church, and one immediately in front of the church. There were far fewer people at this event, which is in contrast to the U.S. perception of Easter. There were fireworks, people adding their own contributions to the long alfombra, recorded music of excitement, and white and yellow flags. A group of bedoin-looking folks played drums, flutes, and shook tamborines in celebration. Everything in the street suggested a great event was about to happen. Then it did: The anda with Jesus, standing in a brilliant white robe, surrounded by beautiful flowers, arms out, signifying his return and salvation. Confetti was dropped from the bell tower, the crowd was chanting Vive Cristo, and the procession began with a New Orleans jazz funeral final joyous song from the band that follows all andas. It was an extraordinary end to an exceptional set of events for the past month. We felt privileged indeed to be witness to this culture's public display of devotion.
Since the end of the events, we have gotten back into the routine of school observations, Spanish lessons, and enjoying Antigua. I am in the final month of my research in the current school I am observing and am in the process of working out arrangements to observe in public/rural schools in our last month here. I have a few interviews set up in Guatemala City, which should add to the rich data base I have been building on my ipad for the past three months. I have learned so much here and hope that this translates to additional research in Denton schools when I return.
Hope all is well for you and yours. Jeanne