Alfombras are the beautiful, amazingly-detailed, colorful carpets made out of sawdust, flowers, vegetables, grass, nuts, eggs and other natural goods. The local families spend all night creating these temporary works of street art, whose fate in a finished state is to adorn the cobbled streets for mere hours or minutes. Soon after being cared for and admired by the crowds, they are sacrificed beneath the feet of the processions within seconds.
During Semana Santa (Holy Week), numerous processions march through the streets, hence new alfombras are constantly being created by the local families over the course of the week. But the big
night is the Thursday before Good Friday when everyone stays up most of
the night to assemble the most elaborate, fancy carpets you can
imagine. This implies that Good
Friday is the day with the most processions and also the
greatest quantity and the most beautiful alfombras.
The local families race through the night to finish their creations before
the procession start rolling through at 4 a.m. and destroys it all. No need to worry though: you don’t have to get up that early, as alfombras pop up
the day from 4 a.m. Friday
morning to 4 a.m. Saturday. I made it out by 9:30 a.m., but while I was busy
tracking the alfombras on a single street, I bumped into the processions
and couldn’t move anywhere, which left a feeling that I missed quite a
(even though I saw tons, the feeling counts more!). So, it would be wise
to get a leaflet with timetables beforehand, and trace the procession
slightly ahead of the floats. This way, you can see plenty of wonderful
alfombras by waking up at a normal hour.
Typical alfombra creation techniques
|This is relatively seen a “quick” one, made from flowers|
I must confess that I hadn’t had the patience to watch the entire process, but here is the summary of what I collected over time.
|First step: level the ground|
|Natives’ hands at work finishing the design of the symbolic Alfombras|
the colored flat designs, 3D elements are also incorporated.
The carpets’ designs reflect biblical symbols,
Mayan traditions, and scenes from nature.
plants, vegetables, eggs and pine needles add the final touches to these
temporary works of art. The amount of detail, people manage to coax from all these materials to create the elaborate offerings is incredibly amazing.
Finally, the alfombras are periodically
finely sprayed with water to keep all pieces in place until the wave of humanity carrying massive platforms with statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary arrives.
Their inevitable destiny: The Processions
procession marchers and heavy floats (anda) trample the once-beautiful alfombras, leaving only a rainbow confetti of flowers and sawdust. More than one
procession usually passes over them, as they weave their way through the city.
A band follows close behind the purple-robed carriers and more thousands of pilgrims, families and tourists trail along. As they slowly move forward, the brass and percussion band plays a dark mournful music. By now, all your senses must have been shaken by the grand and grave atmosphere.
|Purple-robed carriers of a float (anda) during the Easter festival in Antigua|
|Can you smell the incense?|
Reflections of the End
And after they have all passed by, a
small cleanup crew immediately sweeps up the remains and shovel them into a small
bulldozer that follows the procession.
Within moments, the cobblestones are clean with only a few splashes of colorful dye reminding that something beautiful and mysterious happened here.
|A lovely rainbow of confetti|
truly a labor of love and special in its own way. And beyond doubt, it is a profound experience to feel the story of the passion together.