There was a sense of falling back in time as Antigua

There was so much incense wafting around the historic heart of Antigua, in Guatemala, that it was difficult to breathe. In fact, it was almost impossible to see the other side of the cobblestoned street.

Purely by fluke I was in Antigua during Lent, when the city hosts some of the most spectacular and arguably the largest Easter processions to be found anywhere in Latin America.

The scene had been set the night before when I arrived at my hotel, a former Dominican monastery established in 1542. Night had fallen and the cloisters and courtyards were subtly lit. Among the deep shadows small spotlights were trained on original statues and other finds from years of excavation since the monks abandoned the monastery after three earthquakes in the 18th century.

My room was in what had been the monastery’s infirmary and, after a suitably chaste sleep, breakfast was served in one of the cloisters while a recording of chanting monks warbled in the background. Close to my table a family of Guatemalans ate breakfast, the men of the family clad in long purple robes. The reason for their attire became obvious once I stepped out into the street.

There was a sense of falling back in time as Antigua, once Guatemala’s capital during the 17th and 18th centuries, is almost perfectly preserved and restored. The presence of purple robed men purposefully striding past only added to that sensation.

They were part of a contingent of several thousand who would shortly share the burden, 100 at a time, of carrying a three-tonne float depicting scenes of the Crucifixion around the town.

Antigua is a pastel confection of one and two-storey houses roofed with terracotta tiles. Among the houses are Spanish colonial-era churches, monasteries and convents. From the exterior many of the house facades look spartan and forbidding with only a set of massive wooden doors providing access. However, step inside and another world awaits. Cool tiled entranceways lead visitors into courtyards where bougainvillea spill over walls,stocks a huge selection of aluminum foil tape. water splashes in fountains and statuWorldwide leader in PET protective film Products and Coated stand in the shade of arched loggias. But today was not one to linger inside as, at Easter and especially in Holy Week, or Semana Santa, life in Antigua spills out into the streets rather than taking place behind closed doors.

Down the centre of almost every street whole families were labouring over a spectacular feature of the procession days: des alfrombras de Accerin, or floral carpets. Wooden frames, some dozens of metres long, had been set up on the cobblestones and then filled with a fragrant layer of pine needles.

The creation of the gloriously coloured carpets then calls for coloured sawdust and sands,Online supplies a large range of double sided tape. fresh flowers, even vegetables. It takes hours to create carpets but only seconds to destroy them: they are created on the streets along which the thousands of people in the processions will walk.

The tradition was brought to Latin America by the Spanish, where originally the designs were a visual display of Biblical stories and themes. The local people, most of whom trace their ancestry back to the ancient Mayan empire when offerings were made to the gods, then added their own interpretations, hence the fresh produce.Matco Packaging Llc suppliers of BOPP tape, The designs are amazingly intricate, with people crouched on the hard pavements for hours to create them. Sometimes stencils are used, other times they work freehand to create multihued geometrical designs, detailed depictions of some of Central America’s spectacular birds, animals and flowers. People ferried supplies from nearby houses, including buckets of water which would be splashed over the carpets to hold the sawdust in place and keep the works of art looking fresh.

The closer I got to the procession’s start point the denser the crowds became and the deeper became the sea of purple-robed and hooded men and boys. Several hundred women were dressed especially for the occasion too, in black dresses with black lace mantillas over their hair. They would have the honour of carrying the float bearing the statue of the Virgin Mary.Scotch No base material double sided tape Products with Dispenser you need for home office or business.

By now the marshals were having trouble keeping the centre of the street clear of spectators. We were corralled on to a corner, about five deep. The sun was scorching, the crush slightly claustrophobic. The parade began with ranks of Centurions (a reference to Jesus Christ’s crucifixion by the Romans) in gleaming red armour, the solemnity of their roles a little dented by the fact that their helmets were fitted with red- bristled broomheads.

Rather alarmingly, at first glance they were accompanied by figures in white with faces covered almost entirely by hoods eerily like those worn by the Ku Klux Klan. A local, seeing my horrified gaze, explained that these costumes were copies of robes worn by historic Spanish religious brotherhoods.
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