Kaleidoscopic Days

Kaleidoscopic Days photo by César Tián

Colorful Semana Santa (photo by César Tián)

A fellow in Scotland coined the name and invented that mirrored tube he called the kaleidoscope, an “observer of beautiful colors.” We don’t need his device to see swirls of beautiful colors that form our sensuous Guatemalan kaleidoscope all year.

Color, sound, aromas, tastes and touch are especially strong throughout Lent, from confetti and fireworks at the start, then through 40 days of solemn processions, rich bunting on buildings, deep-toned robes, crowded streets, Lenten foods, all culminating with Palm Sunday, Good Friday and the Easter weekend.

Intricate alfombras, carpets of flowers, greens and dyed sawdust that are laid before a holy procession, and then remade for the next shuffling column of penitents in purple robes, combine every tone and texture. No kaleidoscope is required to be dazzled by the hundreds of carpets created on the cobbled streets throughout the season.

The Semana Santa kaleidoscope of Guatemala includes more than just the one sense of sight. Every sense becomes overwhelmed at procession time. The heavy incense, the doleful dirges, the traditional foods and the press of the crowds assault us with pungent odors, steady drumbeats, sharp tastes and close touch.

It’s almost too much.

Take some quiet moments between processions back at one’s home or hotel, or in a garden away from the intense assault on all senses.

Taste the acidic incense smoke in your mouth, feel the gritty dust kicked up by hundreds of shuffling feet. Breathe in the bittersweet smell of corozo, tan plumes from inside a large pod, an aroma that will stay with you as the fragrance of Lent in Guatemala.

You’ll hear in your dreams the funeral marches of the procession bands, which will continue in your lifetime travel memories. You’ll see the kaleidoscope colors again when you edit your pictures and remember what you and all your senses experienced.

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