I’m wearing all black tomorrow not only because I look cool in all black, but also because tomorrow is the day Jesus died, and I’m going to his funeral. If you’re anywhere in Latin America today then you know we’re right smack in the middle of Semana Santa, or Holy Week, and it’s like Christmas + Hanukkah x 10, for a whole week! Guatemala is a predominantly Catholic country and this being a major Catholic holiday, well, the stores are closed, kids are off from school and everyone’s out in the streets watching the processions with their families until it all ends on Sunday. Processions are massive parades with floats carved out of wood depicting Biblical allegories. They are dramatic, colorful, smell like a million simultaneously burning incense sticks and sound like booming off-key parade music.
To understand this holiday you need to understand the Stations of the Cross. The Stations represent the final hours of Jesus’ life. In Antigua there are little houses for each Station- like actual permanent physical structures on this one big street that leads to El Calvario church! Anyway, it’s a lot to get your head around if you’re not Catholic, I know. Lots of gringos I talk to have never even heard of the Stations. Thankfully Prensa Libre ran an awesome infographic yesterday that I’ve scanned and posted below. Just look at the pictures if you can’t read Spanish. Or for a more in-depth explanation in English, this Wiki article will get you up to speed.
My thing is, if you’re in this country during the holidays you should at least get a basic understanding of what’s going on around you. I know most gringos hate “organized religion” but according to my last scientific study most of you are at least “spiritual.” I know, Roman Catholicism isn’t as exotic as hugging Indian saint cults or finding your animal shaman while tripping on peyote, but this is deep, meaningful stuff here- why not check it out?