Hours to make and seconds to destroy, Holy Week flower carpets are a labor of love in Guatemala

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ANTIGUA, Guatemala (AP) — Overnight earlier nan Holy Week processions walk successful beforehand of his house, Luis Álvarez useful pinch 2 twelve family members and friends to create an elaborate, 115-foot-long (35-meter-long) carpet retired of colored sawdust connected nan street.

“A carpet is simply a infinitesimal of thanksgiving for each nan blessings we person each twelvemonth long,” said nan devout Catholic who’s been preparing Holy Week carpets for much than 30 years. “Each speck of sawdust is simply a prayer.”

For him and thousands of different residents of this volcano-fringed assemblage city, participating successful immoderate of Guatemala’s oldest and astir celebrated Holy Week traditions is simply a laborious but unmissable measurement to beryllium person to God arsenic good arsenic to their families and a erstwhile tightknit organization that’s progressively diluted by wide tourism.

“All my life this will merge maine pinch my father, and moreover much truthful pinch my sons,” said Francisco González-Figueroa, who arsenic a kid became an aspiring cucurucho, arsenic nan processions’ float carriers are called, and now takes his 2 boys to help. “One is ever waiting for this moment. It’s nan sensations — interaction pinch nan divine, but besides nan music, nan colors, nan smells.”

He was among much than 9,100 cucuruchos who — successful groups of 104 men — took turns carrying nan block-long float pinch a 300-year-old, life-sized statue of Jesus base nan cross. They started from nan religion of La Merced astir 9 a.m. on Palm Sunday and were still winding their measurement done nan cobblestoned streets aft nan punishingly basking tropical sun had set.

The brotherhood of Jesús Nazareno de La Merced, founded successful 1675, runs 1 of nan oldest processions successful Guatemala, but location are half a twelve others successful Antigua unsocial successful nan week preceding Easter — peaking pinch 2 connected Good Friday.

Tens of thousands of people, of divers ages and professions, motion up from crossed nan region to beryllium cucuruchos for a interest of astir $5. That helps nan various brotherhoods salary for nan elaborate, ever-changing float designs that travel nan ineffable images and further their main ngo of evangelizing.

The number of carriers — men for nan main floats and women for nan lighter ones that travel pinch images of nan Virgin Mary — has been booming aft processions were unprecedently canceled aliases restricted for 3 years during nan pandemic.

“We asked Jesus to region nan pandemic because we wanted to transportation him,” said Julio de Matta, who’s been a cucurucho for 2 decades. Like galore participants and Antigua residents, he refers to nan float arsenic Jesus himself, a motion of his profoundly felt faith.

“It’s a emotion of penance. Since we were children, our fathers instilled overmuch devotion,” he added an hr earlier nan Palm Sunday convoy started. Even though his move to transportation wouldn’t travel for 12 hours, he was already waiting by La Merced religion wearing nan accepted achromatic veil and violet tunic — nan aforesaid shadiness arsenic nan town’s jacaranda blossoms.

A fewer blocks away, Ivan Lemus was besides waiting, but for nan cucuruchos to plod complete nan very first carpet he made. It was a committedness to his sick grandmother.

Lemus and much than a twelve friends had worked overnight to hole nan guidelines complete nan cobblestones. Then, they utilized stencils and spoonfuls of colored sawdust, to create nan design, featuring a transverse pinch grapes, wheat, a butterfly. It was each framed by existent colorful carrots, cauliflowers and corn. In nan early morning, they had to redo a area aft a passing motorcyclist accidentally slid complete and erased it.

Looking excited if bleary-eyed, Lemus, 28, said it has ever been a dream to person nan convoy transverse complete 1 of his carpets.

“Jesus passes successful beforehand of your house, and you’re offering thing and are being blessed,” Lemus said arsenic a friend sprayed nan sawdust pinch h2o to support it from blowing away.

Down nan thoroughfare by nan ruins of a 17th period church, nan family that runs a hairdressing salon kept rushing backmost to their carpet to hole their blown-over small woody boxes topped pinch crosses and filled pinch yellowish chrysanthemums and different flowers.

“It’s our measurement to convey God because nan full twelvemonth we person work,” said Alejandra Santa Cruz, arsenic nan convoy sewage truthful adjacent that drumbeats and incense clouds filled nan air.

While homes and family businesses still statement nan historical center, Antigua’s fame pinch world visitors intends galore person been taken complete by hotels, Airbnbs and restaurants — fraying nan societal cloth that makes Holy Week special.

“It’s nan only infinitesimal to get backmost nan streets successful Antigua,” said Leonel González, who started arsenic a cucurucho erstwhile he was 10 pinch his grandfather, begetter and uncles. “Antigua keeps belonging little and little to nan group of Antigua.”

He still travels much than 3 hours from nan metropolis wherever he useful arsenic a expert each Good Friday to transportation nan float successful Antigua and to drawback up connected section rumors pinch puerility friends. They mightiness ne'er meet nan remainder of nan year, but without neglect they ever find each other.

“When 1 takes up his spot carrying nan float, 1 gives acknowledgment for being location 1 much year, and remembers those who person gone,” González-Figueroa said, adding that Holy Week events get remembered and planned astatine family gatherings each twelvemonth long. “I ever show my sons, this doesn’t make you amended aliases worse, but it unites us.”

That’s why Álvarez is happy to spot that young group who often nary longer person homes successful nan historical halfway are willing successful learning astir nan carpet traditions, contempt nan effort and costs they entail. He remembers 1 nighttime successful 2011 erstwhile 3 thunderstorms deed astatine intervals, forcing him to commencement complete each clip and complete nan activity pinch hardly capable materials and conscionable earlier nan procession.

For Good Friday, he planned 2 different carpets, each of astir 1,100 quadrate feet (105 quadrate meters) pinch 32 main designs — 1 made successful somberly colored sawdust for nan greeting and 1 successful flowers for nan afternoon, erstwhile nan upwind picks up.

But moreover a fewer well-arranged conifer needles are pleasing to God, if that carpet is made pinch nan heart, and each Antigueño has astatine slightest 1 creation successful their head, Álvarez said.

Don’t they mind, then, seeing months of readying and overnights of painstaking activity virtually trampled into oblivion successful little than minute?

On nan contrary, he answers pinch a smile: “Waiting for that infinitesimal is special, waiting for Jesus to walk by.”

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Associated Press belief sum receives support done nan AP’s collaboration pinch The Conversation US, pinch backing from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.