Liz only had a short time here in Guatemala City on Easter Sunday. Her flight left around 12:30pm, which meant we only had until about 10am to do…anything. Liz really wanted to see the Easter festivities in Guatemala, since she was well aware it would probably be her only time in Guatemala for Holy Week. So I did a little research, and we set of for Zone 1 to try and catch a procession in the morning.
Each year during Holy Week in Guatemala, elaborate alfombras (carpets) are designed on the streets, made of colored sawdust and plants and flowers. Then a procession of people holding up floats bearing images of the Lenten story moves slowly down the street, walking over the alfombra. The processions happen the entire 40 days of Lent, but are most impressive in Antigua and during Semana Santa.
Going to Antigua was out of the question, but we knew that Guatemala City would have its own processions. I found that one procession would leave at 8am arrive at the Catedral Metropolitana at noon. While we wouldn’t be at the cathedral to see its arrival and enjoy the festivities, I figured we could meet it along the route and see it at least.
So Liz and I left my house at 8am, stopping to pick up Christy on the way. When we arrived in Zone 1, preparations for a huge party were already half set up in the main plaza. Food vendors and artisans were in the process of opening their booths, and purple fabric cordoning off the streets marked the reason for the celebration.
After consulting a map of the procession’s route, we set off down a street hoping to run into it. By 9:30am, we’d seen no sign of the procession, so we stopped to ask several municipal police officers about the route and where we might run into it. We followed the officer’s directions to the letter, but saw no sign of a procession advancing towards us. We did, however, see one alfombra in its beginning stages of creation (just a background of pine needles, no design or anything), and we thought we heard a procession at one point and ran to catch it—but it turned out to be just a church group singing and handing out balloons.
Disappointed, we headed back to the central plaza where we snapped a few photos and wandered a bit before realizing it was 9:50 and we should probably head for the car and towards the airport.
We plugged in Waze to get the fastest route from zone 1 to the airport, and we were on our way. Soon, we turned a corner, though, and found cars stopped up ahead. We’d run right into—the procession. I pulled over, and we all hopped out and walked up to the intersection, just in time to witness the whole thing.
So in the end, Liz saw alfombras, the towering floats of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Resurrected, and the multitudes of people following the procession. She smelled the incense and heard the fire crackers thrown down to announce the risen lord’s arrival.
And the timing was perfect—the procession passed, the street opened, and we arrived at the airport exactly 2 hours before her flight was scheduled to leave. Couldn’t have asked for a better Easter morning.