written by Ana Flinder
Semana Santa is undoubtedly the most festive week of the year in Guatemala, celebrated with the most pomp and grandeur in La Antigua, and with deeply traditional ceremonies and indigenous style in Santiago Atitlán. Both of these destinations require advanced bookings for lodging but are not the only places to experience a Guatemalan Semana Santa.
San Pedro la Laguna, at the base of Volcán San Pedro, has a surprisingly authentic and reverent Semana Santa celebration, as well as a plethora of hotels. In recent years, San Pedro has attracted only a smattering of tourists who attend the celebrations, while many, both Guatemalan and foreign, stay downhill from town in the tourist zone, vacationing among the many bars and restaurants, and perhaps kayaking and horseback riding.
There are processions all through the week in San Pedro, featuring a children’s procession and a Judas procession on Ash Wednesday, processions of Christ on the cross and María on Good Friday, the women’s daytime processions with María on Saturday, and a procession of the resurrected Christ on Easter morning.
Although San Pedro is a relatively modernized town—for example, almost none of the women still wear handwoven huipiles, prefering polyester “blusas”—the Semana Santa celebrations are bien tradicional. It is immediately evident that days and weeks of work have gone into the elaborate preparations of the processions and alfombras. Here, the alfombras—carpets laid out on the streets for the processions to walk over as they carry statues of Jesus and Mary— are nearly all made of organic materials: flowers, leaves, seedpods and seeds, which have been gathered from the woods and volcano slopes surrounding the town in the previous days. And over their finest sequin-spangled lacy blusas, the Catholic women of San Pedro wear traditional handwoven muticolored checkerboard shawls. These backstrap loom-woven trajes of San Pedro are still used for daily wear as well as for ceremonies. Traditions which seemed to have been lost are revived and alive in San Pedro in this week of the year.
While not as mind-boggling or dramatic as the processions in La Antigua or Santiago, Semana Santa in San Pedro is a feast for the eyes, as well as an authentically reverent celebration that carries its own unique sweetness and devotion. And, naturally, there are plenty of firecrackers.
Semana Santa Processions San Pedro la Laguna, Lake Atitlán
(main streets, time schedule is approximate)
April 5 – Palm Sunday
5:30am—A blessing, distribution of palms & procession; 6am, Mass
April 9 – Holy Thursday
8am—Procession, Via Crucis; evening brings preparation of alfombras for Good Friday
1pm—Procession, the Holy Cross of Jesus of Nazareth
1:30pm—Veneration of the Holy Cross until 1pm on Holy Friday
8pm—Procession, Jesus of Nazareth and La Virgen Dolorosa.
April 10 – Holy Friday
8am—Procession, Via Crucis, with the
statues of Jesus of Nazareth and La Virgen Dolorosa
Noon—Procession, the Holy Cross
8pm—Procession del Santo Entierro
con el Señor Sepultado.
April 11 – Holy Saturday
6pm—Solemn procession of la Virgen de Soledad carried by the mothers of the community, along the main streets of San Pedro
April 12 – Easter Sunday
8am—Procession, the Risen Christ, el Señor Resucitado