Four women work on making the customary tunics worn by cucuruchos for processions. The small group has been working on the robes for the past four months in order to have plenty of them available for Lent and Semana Santa.
The purple robes take a few hours to complete. “The trickiest part to make is the neck zipper,” explains Lilian Alexa Reyes de León, one of the sewing ladies. The “regular” purple tunics are worn by cucuruchos carrying a “Nazareno”; a standing Jesus carrying a cross. There’s also black robes, which are less common, and are worn exclusively while carrying a “fallen” or a “burial” Jesus, exclusively seen on Good Thursday.
Other costumes present in processions are the ones worn by the Sendrín, the person who directs the procession. The person playing this role usually walks between lanes of cucuruchos and sports a red, blue, purple, or yellow robe with a face mask. The colour of the tunic mostly depends on the brotherhood in charge of the procession, as they all have different preferences.
According to Sergio Rodríguez, who’s been in the business of making robes for cucuruchos for over 30 years, the biggest challenge in crafting the tunics is getting the colour right. “Most fabrics are not the same shade of purple,” he explains. So, they have to mix and match the fabrics to get them just right. “We even have spare spare ribbons and other parts of the tunics in different shades of purple in case someone needs them during the procession.”
According to Miguel Álvarez, a local historian, cucuruchos first appeared in the Cofradía La Santa Veracruz, in Seville, Spain during the 12th century. They were originally known as “penitents” or “nazarenes”. Their attire is based off what pilgrims who were headed to holy lands in Rome or Santiago de Compostela wore back then. They covered their face as a symbol of anonymity to show discipline and a conic hat that represented their search for the heavens through the exercise of pilgrimage. The first Cofradía in Guatemala appeared in 1582, during colonial times. That’s when they became a fundamental part of Semana Santa in Guatemala.