Tips for enjoying Semana Santa
Lent and Holy Week celebrations in La Antigua Guatemala can be a bit overwhelming at best. Over the years, I have learned some great tips to enjoy the more than 50 activities during this time of year. Some of them are:
- Plan ahead and allow plenty of time. Know the times and locations of the velaciones and processions. City Hall provides free pamphlets for all the Sunday Lent and Semana Santa processions. Available at booths in Central Park, the pamphlets give the times and processional routes.
- I usually allow for a couple of hours to see the carpet making before the procession leaves its church. The most beautiful carpets are often closest to the church that hosts the procession. There are usually carpets all along the procession route, so I can also catch some carpet making later in the day. Then take a break.
- Processions usually take about 12 hours. Depending on the time of day or night, I locate a good corner and get on the right-hand side of the Christ figure. The sculpture is best appreciated when He looks at you. All Christ figures (except in the children’s procession from the cathedral) look to the right-hand side. Corners are great so I can see the carriers (men called cucuruchos and women called cargadoras) change turns with precision. It usually takes a full hour to see the entire procession go by and then, instead of trying the beat the crowds, I can easily walk away from the procession.
- Do not take anything of value to velaciones or processions. Pickpockets work the crowds seamlessly. No passports. No credit cards. I usually put a camera around my neck and pack a few quetzales and then go back to my home or hotel afterward when I decide to go out again for a meal.
- The advantage of staying in Antigua to enjoy the largest celebration in the world is that I can pace myself. It is truly an incredible time of the year!