12.04.2009 24 °C
There are usually 35,000 people living in Antigua, but for one weekend each year the town swells to more than 15 times its usual size with tourists pouring in from all over the world. The reason? Semana Santa, or Easter Holy Week.
Antiguans get into the Easter spirit by putting on huge processions involving hundreds of purple robe-clad men, some of whom carry huge floats with depictions of Christ carrying the cross, and mournful brass bands, all swathed in thick clouds of frankincense. These processions travel around the whole town, taking 6 hours or more to complete their route.
Another tradition is for families or groups to create intricately-patterned 'carpets' (or alfombras) of brightly coloured sawdust and fresh flowers in the street, so that the procession can travel over them. We were able to get involved in making these alfombras with both our school and our host family.
First we coloured the sawdust by adding powdered dye, water, and rubbing it all together for 20 mins. The dye left us with stained hands for a couple of days!
Then we arranged the coloured sawdust into patterns using stencils as a guide. The carpet we made with our school took approx 20 people 6 hours to make!!!
And then it took about 2 minutes for it to be walked over and destroyed! After all that work we felt pretty protective over it and didn't really want it to be trashed – but...oh well.
This is the carpet we made with our host family the following day. It took much less time, thankfully!
The town is incredibly efficient about clearing up the sawdust and flower remnants immediately afterwards, by bringing in noisy dump trucks and teams of street sweepers. Kind of detracts from the 'holiness' of the occasion, but then again, so do the balloon-animal sellers and the guys in the procession on their mobile phones. “Hello God, can you hear me?”