Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A life in the day of an Antiguan alfombra...

One of the most unforgettable aspects of the way in which Easter is celebrated in Antigua, Guatemala, is the visual spectacle of all the amazing alfombras (carpets ) created for the occasion by the local community.

Made of pine needles and fresh flowers, or coloured sawdust in intricate stencilled designs, they start to appear at 2 or 3am along the major route of an Easter Procession. Whole families are up and out beginning the process under spotlights, laying the foundations, crawling precariously on crawl boards so that the complex design is not compromised...

Complete concentration is focused on creating the most beautiful of flower carpets..

And the most stunning of sawdust carpets along the narrow cobbled streets....

Everyone gets involved - young and old, family and friends, tourists and locals....


Then, before the Processions arrive, the main task is to keep the flowers as fresh as possible with a constant spray of water from the family hosepipes.....

The odd dog or too has to be shooed away from spoiling the holy effort and pristine finished product...

As the monumental Processions draw near, the carpets are first blessed by numerous incense bearers who create an atmospheric haze of smoke swirling along the streets...


And then in the very next instant they are trampled to dust and crushed to nothing by the feet of the float-bearers carrying the gigantic statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary...

Local people following the Procession rush to gather what remains of the trampled flowers as they are now holy and blessed, and then it is time for the final stage...


And with astonishing and somewhat ruthless,clinical efficiency, rushes in a team of sweepers, who without further ado, brush up the remnants of pine needles and sawdust unceremoniously dumping them into the convenient dumpster - the final float in the Procession....

All that remains is a faint smudge on the cobblestones and a stray wisp of incense... as if all this had never really been......

Until of course the next Procession is due, and the whole cycle is repeated all over again...and again...and again!! I was fortunate to be staying on a main Processional route at Posada LaMerced, Antigua, and so was involved in making the hotel carpet out on the street under the strict design orders of hotelier and good friend Gail Rogers... An unforgettable experience!!! ( Posada LaMerced at Avenida Norte 7 , 43a is a highly recommended, friendly and great value place to stay.)

6 comments:

A Cuban In London said...

I have to admit that I found this post far more appealing than the previous one. Religious imagery, especially of the Catholic type is a big turn-off for me, but the images you took for this post are amazing. And I loved the last one best; the fact that after the procession is finished you still have a memento on the road to remind you how powerful art is. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Cecile/DreamCreateRepeat said...

Sort of reminds me of Native American Indian sand art prayers. Elaborate designs are made in colored sand, which will eventually be blown away (glued versions for tourists are a later perversion).

the impermanence is part of the symbolism. How wonderful you got to participate!

kristine said...

i just posted on exactly the same thinbg. you bring it back very nicely. They are so beautiful, arent they...

Catherine said...

Cuban - completely agree.. I suppose I look at all the catholic imagery as pure visual spectacle as never having been brought up religiously..
Cecile - yes I agree with the comparison and the transience is certainly part of the charm
Kristine - just about to look at your post, and yes I thought the carpets were the most stunning aspect...

Robert V. Sobczak said...

That's street art ... and well done.

Catherine said...

Robert...yes street art is a good way to describe it...