Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth Bell’

Semana Santa in Antigua

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

One of these years, I hope to spend Semana Santa, also known as Holy Week, the days leading up to Easter Sunday, in Antigua. Everyone says it’s fabulous. Well, that’s not exactly true. A friend from Guatemala who grew up in Antigua says it’s his least favorite holiday–”Too many tourists”–and a woman I met in Boston on my book tour said her pocket was picked–not once, but three different times.

Nevertheless, I’d still like to go. Last summer at Latin American Heritage Camp in Colorado, Cynthia Rothwell gave a fascinating presentation on Holy Week as it’s celebrated throughout Guatemala. Participants like me were able to create our own miniature alfombras, or carpets, using stencils and piles of sawdust that had been dyed, and which Cynthia carried in her checked luggage, all the way from Guatemala. The hardest part was “erasing” the rug after creating it. Imagine how the Guatemalan artists feel when their hours of handiwork are finally trampled by a thousand passing feet.

Holy Week in Antigua Guatemala, posted by “chezi” on TravelBlog in 2009, gives a wonderful overview of the tradition. In the April 2011 edition of Guatemala’s English language Revue Magazine, Antigua historian Elizabeth Bell offers her helpful tips for getting the most of the carpet-viewing experience. My two favorite Elizabeth tips:

  • Processions usually take about 12 hours. Depending on the time of day or night, I locate a good corner and get on the right-hand side of the Christ figure. The sculpture is best appreciated when He looks at you. All Christ figures (except in the children’s procession from the cathedral) look to the right-hand side. Corners are great so I can see the carriers (men called cucuruchos and women called cargadoras) change turns with precision. It usually takes a full hour to see the entire procession go by and then, instead of trying the beat the crowds, I can easily walk away from the procession. 
  • Do not take anything of value to velaciones or processions. Pickpockets work the crowds seamlessly. No passports. No credit cards. I usually put a camera around my neck and pack a few quetzales and then go back to my home or hotel afterward when I decide to go out again for a meal.
  • Finally, for gorgeous procession photos check out the website AntiguaDailyPhoto. The site is a great resource for stunning visuals any time of year, but especially during Semana Santa. Looking at the photos I vow once again: Next year in Antigua during Holy Week. Definitely.

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    Antigua, part 3

    Friday, July 30th, 2010

    When I visit Antigua with Olivia, the first place we go is the house where we lived in 2003, which we rented through Elizabeth Bell, whom I view as the unofficial “mayor” of the colonial town. In fact, I picked up a recent edition of the Revue, the monthly English-language magazine with articles on local people and events, and I see there’s a new column: “Ask Elizabeth.” Makes complete sense to me: in my experience, there is no question about Antigua or its history that cannot be answered by Elizabeth Bell. She’s even written a book about it, titled, appropriately enough, Antigua Guatemala: The City and Its Heritage. I referred to Elizabeth’s book often when writing my memoir, Mamalita.

    The photo above is of our front door, which I love for its carved pattern and weathered wood. When we first moved in, the door featured a brass door-knocker shaped like a crouching lion. Unfortunately, the lion disappeared one day, never to be replaced. Oh well. Even without the extra decoration, the door is still beautiful. (more…)

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