Holy Week in Guatemala – Project Statement
The burden and beauty of belief weighs heavy on the shoulders of the faithful as they perform the age-old traditions of Holy Week (Semana Santa) that were brought from Spain to Guatemala in the 17th Century. Throughout the week, parishioners from churches in and around Antigua partake in solemn processions that commemorate the last days of Jesus.
A thick veil of smoke from incense burners fills the air, and the mournful sounds of funeral dirges from brass bands echo off ancient monastery walls, as the spectacular processions slowly wend their way through the narrow cobblestone streets and over decorative carpets (alfumbras) of pine needles, flowers, fruit and colored sawdust. Scores of men dressed in biblical garb carry elaborately carved antique wooden platforms (andas) featuring sacred statues of Jesus, while hundreds more walk alongside awaiting their turn. The anda is never set down, and as it sways back and forth while the procession slowly inches forward, it seems as though it might topple over at any moment. In a similar fashion, andas with statues of the Virgin Mary are carried by doleful women, dressed in black or white lace. Both the statues of Jesus and Mary, and the massive andas, which may weigh thousands of pounds, are centuries old. The processions can last over twelve hours, and often begin or end in the wee hours of the night.
No written description can adequately convey the spirituality that permeates the atmosphere during these activities, but all those who witness the processions will certainly be touched. These photos, taken during Holy Week in 2015 and 2016, provide a glimpse into the profound passion of Holy Week in Guatemala.
This series was recently featured in Slate and was also a PX3 Competition Bronze Award Winner and a Critical Mass 2015 Finalist. Ten prints from this series are on display in the 2016 Pacific Northwest Photography Viewing Drawers at the Blue Sky Gallery Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts until March 31, 2017.