At any other time of year La Antigua Guatemala has the atmosphere of a town that is perhaps just few thousand people short of critical mass. Not so during Semana Santa though, when it appears to have been fully restored to its former role of teeming capital for the whole region.
This year it was widely reported that visitor numbers were down (especially from El Salvador) but it felt cramped enough for me.
Die-hard unbeliever I might be, but I couldn't help but partake in the collective rapture when the Escuela de Cristo anda entered the Parque Central and slowly rocked towards the cathedral where hundred of candle-wielding catholics awaited it.
The E de C anda itself was magnificent. V said it was the best she'd ever seen. It's centrepiece was a Renaissance dome at the back-end, possibly modelled on painted antecedents in the Vatican, which featured a retractable cupola that could be activated in those streets where low slung cables are the norm.
When the anda entered the main square this cupola was down, and given the lack of overhead wires in the vicinity, we all thought that the mechanism might have become jammed, but no, they had of course planned for it to re-emerge as the procession rounded the corner, eliciting a collective "aaaaah" from the mass of onlookers.
The spaced-out Californian that lives in V's sister's house told me that he hadn't been expecting anything like this when he turned up in Antigua: "Dude, they all look like one of those sinister secret societies, like in that Stanley Kubrick movie."
The San Felipe procession is by far the smokiest of the season. You could track its progress around town using the mushroom cloud of luminous incense that it was throwing up. Participation in it has rather less snob-value compared to its rival. "Muco-ruchos," I joked to V as it passed, leaving us gasping for breath.
Anyway, these were my own pics of the mysterious goings-on that day.
Procesión de la Consagrada Imagen de Jesús Nazareno De La Merced
Procesión de Señor Sepultado y María Santísima de la Soledad, Templo de la Escuela de Cristo