Viewing Holy Week Processions

November 24, 2008 by  
Filed under Featured

Viewing the Processions
If people are on the curb waiting to see the procession, do not arrive late and expect to stand in front them. It is customary to stand behind them on the sidewalk (but only if there is room). If you try to get behind people but there is no room, don’t be surprised if people refuse to let you through.  If you attempt to stand in front of people, you will most likely be asked to move—sometimes politely, sometimes not. After all, people have been standing there for hours to get a good place. Curbs mark boundaries of where you should and shouldn’t be. If you’re in the street, you may need to move out of the way as processions go by. Higher places, such as stairs, trash containers, etc., are often prized places and often go fast.

People travel from all over the world to witness Holy Week processions. Therefore, be prepared for lots of people—LOTS of people. These will be some of the biggest crowds you’ve ever seen, densely crammed in narrow streets. Patience is required. You’ll often see parents with baby strollers, lifting them over their heads to get through the tightest spots. You’ll also see people who insist on moving through an already packed crowd in hopes of getting a better view. So be prepared for people who will not let you pass. Finally, be prepared for a lot of pushing as you navigate through the crowds. 

Dressing up
People frequently dress up in honor of such a holy event, especially on Thursday (Jueves Santo), Friday (Viernes Santo), and Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos). Some women even wear high heels! However, for La madrugá people wear comfortable clothing. Keep in mind that whatever you wear, you might be wearing it for upwards of 10-12 hours while waiting and then watching the processions and other Semana Santa activities. Thursday and Friday during the day you’ll see some women dressed in black and with mantillas in mourning of the death of Jesus. 

Silence and light
The crowds will often hush others as processions approach. Respect the silence! The nazarenos in these processions are also forbidden to talk with anyone once dressed. Street, store front, and apartment lights are also turned off for some of the processions, such as El Silencio. 

It is OK to take pictures. Professional and amateur photographers alike come from all over the world to take pictures of this blessed, holy event.

Petty theft
Tourists, crowds in close proximity to each other, cameras, and of course money for food and souvenirs all make Semana Santa an ideal place for pickpockets. I had about 70 quetzals stolen one evening. Keep your belongings close and remain aware of your surroundings. 

Don’t touch
Although it seems like an obvious statement to say “Don’t touch the processions as they pass by,” it is still worth saying. Uphold the sanctity of the processions and what they represent by not touching them.

Because rain can damage the imagines and other items carried during the processions, Semana Santa processions are cancelled during rain. Weather is closely monitored by radio, with everyone listening in to see if a procession will or will not leave that day. If a procession is cancelled, it is not uncommon to see the people involved with that procession crying and deeply saddened; after all, they practiced or planned all year. A cancelled procession is truly a disappointment.


One Comment on "Viewing Holy Week Processions"

  1. carlos lopez on Fri, 19th Mar 2010 9:36 pm 

    muy bonita semana santa en guatemala

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