Semana Santa in Guatemala, the Holy Week leading up to Easter, is unarguably one of Central America’s most well-known celebrations. The grand processions on top of all of the beautiful flower and sawdust carpets during this time of the year are one of the country’s trademarks. It’s no wonder tens of thousands of people from across the globe flock to La Antigua Guatemala and Zone 1 of Guatemala City to watch the lavish floats being carried through their historic streets. However, that’s not all there is to Semana Santa in Guatemala. Each community has its own lesser-known but equally beautiful traditions, so we went looking for some of them. After all, that’s what Comvite’s all about.
Every year, students of Universidad San Carlos de Guatemala, the country’s oldest university, protest pretty much anything they can think of and they build satirical floats for the occasion. This year’s floats featured harsh criticism of president Jimmy Morales’ government, as well as Guatemala City’s mayor, Álvaro Arzú.
Every year, the town of San Felipe, Sacatepéquez offers a procession featuring live actors for Palm Sunday. It’s a tradition that goes back for quite some time. The procession begins when a man playing Judas announces its commencement. Then, a donkey-riding Jesus impersonator rides through the crowd as if he were entering the streets of Jerusalem.
Lake Atitlán features one of the most beautiful and colourful Palm Sunday celebrations in Guatemala. It is definitely worth checking out.
In Cantón Camanchá, near Chichicastenango, a crowd gathers every year to burn Judas effigies. The gas used to set them on fire is bought by collecting money from those who pass by. While most Semana Santa traditions involving Judas take place on Good Saturday, these photos were taken on a Good Thursday in 2016.
The Bull Run of Sacapulas
In the town of Sacapulas, on Good Friday, a bull with a Judas doll is released into a crowd. This tradition, which is about five decades old, is based off of the bull runs in Spain. The Guatemalan twist: a short line of fire crackers is tied at the end of the bull’s tail to startle it and get him going, and no bull is to ever be harmed during this event.
Not all of Semana Santa processions are about Jesus. At Lake Atitlán, the Cofradía de Rilaj Mam take Maximón out for a walk.
The small town of Chocolá in Suchitepéquez organises one of the most eclectic traditions in the country, which features a huge spar between the “Judíos” and “Centurions”. It’s a tradition unlike any other.
The Crawlers of Salcabajá
In the town of San Andrés Sajcabajá, penitents crawl their way under the hot sun towards a church as a sign of faith and penance.
Once a year, for reasons unknown to everyone, the farming of Chivarreto, Totonicapán sets up a ring in the town square where all of its citizens (mostly peaceful folk) beat the living crap out of each other.
On Good Friday at Lake Atitlán, a casket with an image of Jesus is taken on a processional route. While penitents slowly inch forward carrying the big float, a procession featuring Maximón meets with it, and they perform a small dance.