I was lucky enough to be living in Antigua, Guatemala during Semana Santa—the city’s largest and most colorful festival, where thousands of purple-robed Guatemalans participate in a more than 12-hour long procession that winds through the cobblestoned streets. In the weeks and months before the procession, residents create intricate alfombras, which are rugs made of died wood chippings, sand, grass, or fruits and vegetables. The rugs, beautiful and time-intensive, are destroyed in seconds as hundreds of robed feet pass over.
Groups of about 80 people carry thick, heavy andas—meaning, wooden stands—with some kind of religious display atop. The heavy andas mean that the walk is slow and grueling, but the groups somehow maintain the tempo of the music. And the music, slow and somber, is one of the most memorable aspects of Semana Santa. Hundred of brass players and percussionists march with the procession, repeating the same powerful songs that strike a deep chord with the spectators.