Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Holy Week in Guatemala in Living Color

These long, extraordinary colorful carpets so traditional in the Guatemalan popular culture, are deeply rooted from times no one can remember. They are probably the most notorious example to describe the magic religious and cultural syncretism prevalent throughout the country in our days.
The origin of these ephemeral works of art is related to two different sources: 
Carpets in San Lucas Toliman, Solola and San Cristobal, Sacatepequez
1. The Meso America ancient civilizations used to make carpets for ceremonial purposes with pine needles, flowers, seeds, and feathers of birds considered precious, like quetzales, scarlet macaws, and hummingbirds.
Carpets in San Pedro La Laguna and Santiago Atitlan, Solola
2. The Spanish influence, specifically from the Canary Islands, homeland of Pedro de Betancur who was part of the Franciscan Order, the main evangelists during the colonial times.
Carpet made with coffee beans in different stages
That mixed origin combined with the Guatemalan historical development, around the Centuries XVII and XVIII brought to life a new tendency, full of symbolism and different elements. That is why the Guatemalan carpets, made mostly of dyed sawdust, flowers, seeds, fruits, and bread, have become the symbol par excellence to define the Guatemalan syncretism. 
Carpet made with pine needles and fresh mangoes
The carpets are made by residents, friends, and families along processional routes. They are offered up as a sacrifice in anticipation of the procession that will destroy them by marching through the painstaking and fantastic creations. 
Carpet made with a combination of flowers, fresh fruits, and bread
Size and complexity depends largely on the size of your workforce and the amount of money raised to buy materials. Also carpets made by children are usually smaller and not as elaborate - but just as beautiful! 
Carpet made with dyed sawdust, and border details with corozo  and purple estaticia flowers
I cannot tell you how many cities, towns, and villages participate in this ritual but I know it is quite widespread all over Guatemala.
Carpet and procession in Villa Nueva, Guatemala
When one procession has gone by, a clean-up crew follows removing the remains. Almost immediately, residents may begin to build yet another carpet in anticipation of the next procession later that day or the next. 

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