Easter in Panajachel

Communities across Guatemala mark the Easter season in many different ways. From the extravagant processions in the colonial city of Antigua to the bare-knuckle boxing (chivarreto) on Good Friday in Totonicapan, each community's celebration is unique.

For Catholic parishioners in Panajachel, the observance of this sacred time mostly takes place in the evening.

Each Friday night during Lent, at the local Catholic Church, la Iglesia San Francisco de Asís, parishioners gather to carry a life-size statue of Jesus on an "anda," or float, to each Station of the Cross. The journeys take several hours to complete, as the procession weaves its way through the streets of Panajachel, with members of the group taking turns carrying the heavy wooden float.

Finally, after weeks of anticipation and preparation, as Lent ends on Maundy Thursday, parishioners gather on a bridge outside of town a little after 9pm for a procession honoring the conviction of Jesus at the hands of the Romans. As they carry the anda into town and up to the church, at each Station of the Cross along the way the anda is placed on "alfombras," or carpets, that community members have prepared. Some alfrombras are extravagant, constructed with many colors of dyed sawdust, and others are more simple, made with just pine needles and "ofrendas", or offerings, of fruit.

As Good Friday begins, the churchgoers gather once again at the cathedral in the center of town for a day of penance and reflection with processions marking the death of Jesus. The processions on Good Friday are the only ceremonies that begin before nightfall in Panajachel. Around mid-afternoon on Good Friday, the largest and final Holy Week procession leaves the church.

Until well after midnight, residents line the streets of Panajachel as the faithful carry a large and ornate anda with a representation of Jesus' body throughout the town. By the time the procession finally makes it to the church, hundreds have gathered inside the church to take part in the Easter mass. The anda, with the body of Jesus, is brought to the front of the church, and the group prays.

To see an entire gallery of pictures from the Lenten season here in Panajachel, click this link!