Easter here really is a classic system for making the rich richer and the poor poorer. The big winners are the hotels and restaurants, the Muni and of course the Catholic Church.
But for the households who participate by carpeting the cobbles with unique, multicoloured alfombras made from coloured aserrín (sawdust), Easter will surely have portended the very opposite of a seasonal windfall.
There's also a great deal of hard work involved as the dyes are purchased separately and appplied over a period of several days in advance of the passing of the processions.
My brother-in-law recently explained to me how sawdust has become almost prohibitively expensive over the last few years with the result that there are now fewer ceremonial carpets and more of those that you do see are made with pine, coroso and flowers. I rather facetiously remarked that in that case all the carpet-makers of Antigua should go on strike and refuse to come out on Thursday night unless the Muni and the Church agree to subsidise them!
Devotion aside, they would appear to have considerable leverage in this respect, and it strikes me as a tad unfair that they're not raking it in like the aforementioned institutions. It's hard to see how Antigua would have been voted best foreign destination this year without the spectacle of Semana Santa. The city is lovely all year round, but the processions are a core part of its international reputation.
Indeed, if I were the Mayor I'd investigate the possibility of offering all households below a certain income level a voucher entitling them to a discount on the purchase of sawdust and other key materials. The current incumbent of the Ayuntamiento obviously thought it was a smart move to keep his pre-election promise to cobble all the streets of our colonia in order to shore up support round here, so the alfombra-subsidy idea might also appeal to his strategic sensibilities. And Antigua itself can only benefit (and that means all those salesmen of opportunity too) from measures which slow up any degeneration in these age-old traditions.