Yesterday I strolled through the streets of Antigua, soaking up the sites and observing the many goings-on that are part of holy week preparations. In the early afternoon we attended a demonstration of carpet making, the Guatemalan tradition of laying down colourful carpets in front of shops, homes and churches as offerings during this time. The story goes that this tradition was brought here by the man who is now the patron saint of Antigua, San Pedro de Betancourt. He was originally from Tenerife and brought the tradition from there. He also built the first hospital for the poor of Antigua.
The tradition represents in part the laying down of carpets and robes on Palm Sunday as Christ walked to Jerusalem carrying his cross. Mayan traditions have been incorporated into the making of carpets. Here people spend hours dying the sawdust that is used to make the carpets, then constructing them as a family or group prior to a procession that will take place later in the day. Some can be made from pine branches, corn and flowers, others from sawdust or corn meal. Our teacher told us that his family will make three such carpets before Friday, one fore each procession that will pass by his home.
We spent the afternoon working on a small carpet as an example of how one is made. It was lots of fun, getting our hands covered with dye, and then trying our best to make a carpet......coming away with lots of respect for the work required to make such a piece of art. It takes about 4 to 5 hours to make one and about 30 seconds for it to be destroyed when the procession passes over it!
Sawdust dyed orange/green
The finished product
Pine carpet with corn and flowers