An obvious benefit of the timing of my trip was that I got to celebrate Semana Santa - Easter week. I had requested that my homestay be with a Catholic family which was a great call - more on that in the next post.
Although Antigua is better known for its Semana Santa celebrations, San Pedro La Laguna does the holiday up in style with processions once or twice per day and festive decorations in the church and around town. Although the processions occurred at different hours of the day or night and varied in theme and pace, most followed the same route and started with noisemakers and the church band. There were usually andas - the large decorated wooden barges - and women singing. Many stopped every half block or so at a station of the cross, as seen in the 1st two pictures below, taken on Friday night more than a week before Easter Sunday.
I joined José, the father in my host family, for an early morning gathering a week before Easter in preparation for the special procession and mass to celebrate Palm Sunday.
Another day the procession led the way as a decorated truck pulled in near the church and baskets of fruit and hundreds of giant palm pods were unloaded.
The next day the fruit was carried through town and into the church, led by the noisemakers and the band. The church and surrounding streets were decorated with fruit for the rest of the week.
That's José, the dad in my host family, in the tan jacket.
Mynor explained to me that, after the fragrant seeds of the palm pods are removed for decorative purposes, the husks make good devices for sledding down steps.
We said goodbye for the day and half an hour later I came upon these kamikaze kids.
I also lucked into witnessing another generations-old tradition: a rowdy game played with disks of bees wax, in this case with traditional accompaniment.
There was a kids' procession on Thursday that included my little host Felix, age 7 (3rd photo).
The longest night procession was held on Thursday night. Actually, slowest is a better description since the route was the same but it took 4 or 5 hours for the procession to complete the route, ending around midnight.
The acolyte on the left is Beca student Francisco.
Beginning immediately after the parade and continuing till daylight, groups gathered along the parade route to create alfombras - carpets - for the most important parade of all, held Friday morning at 8 o'clock. Some of the alfombras were made out of colorful, fine sawdust using stencils.
My favorites were made from pine needles, fruit, and flower petals. I found the circular formations especially appealing.
When I showed María, the mother in my host family, this photo, she told me her father he is pictured standing in the blue jacket and his church group created the alfombra.
I'm pictured below with Jon, another Cooperativa school student who lived with the same host family. We walked the route looking at the designs, then watched the start of the procession as it left the church.
When it had moved beyond the park area, teams raced in to fill in the path with alfombras for its return and I got to help.
Then I walked up a street to watch the procession continue on its route. Note the unlucky individual holding the electrical wires out of the way with a long metal pole thinly clad in electrical tape.
The songs still ring in my ears when I see this photo.
As soon as the last andas passed, the roads were swept clear.
In neighboring San Juan, the alfombras are creating during the day for an evening parade. Jon and I hiked to San Juan and were interested to see mostly sawdust creations with young artists and creative, nuanced designs.
The highlight of Easter week for me was the Easter mass, 1st time for me in a Catholic Church and 1st time wearing traditional traje.