Antigua, Guatemala holds one of the largest Easter celebrations in the whole world. Ninety percent of Guatemala identifies with Catholicism, a result of 500 years of conquistadors and colonialism. The Semana Santa celebrations demonstrate a distinct belief structure of the catholic people of Guatemala – a commitment to devotion – a devotion to the suffering of Jesus Christ. They take this time to pay penance.
Roughly 1 million people descend on Antigua from all over Guatemala and all over the world. Parade participants wear long gowns. Their shoulders bear the weight of wooden floats weighing as much as 7000 pounds, while they sway through the ancient city’s tiny streets, retelling the story of Jesus’s crucifixion from midnight Friday morning until a final Monday morning mass.
People painstakingly dress the cobblestone streets with colourful carpets ahead of the parade, working through the night to ensure an elaborate and ornate runway is ready for the pall-bearers of Jesus and the virgin Mary. The hours of work preparing the streets disappear the moment the parade passes over. Volunteers scrape the streets clean of dyed sawdust and floral arrangements. Throughout the extended weekend people labour under the hot central American sun, using the small stuffy streets as their own personal pilgrimage in an attempt to suffer, as He did.