Semana Santa (Easter Week): The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Last week was Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Guatemala, which could be considered Spring Break since all of the schools in the country are closed for the week. Many businesses, including most government functions, close or at least give employees a few days off. Household staff is often given reduced hours so they can celebrate with their families. Our little Lake Atitlan was transformed, and not all of it was for the better. 

The Good

Semana Santa is a religious celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is a lot of beauty and art that is showcased throughout the week. Locals create intricate "carpets" made out of colored sawdust, pine needles, breads, fruits, vegetables and flowers. Once again, I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to share another unique art form with Ela. She loves art and at age nine has a deeper appreciation for the various forms of art than I ever will. 

The carpets are constructed on the street. It was fun to watch them come together.

The carpets are constructed on the street. It was fun to watch them come together.

I loved the vivid colors and symmetry of the fruit, vegetables and grain used in these carpets. 

I loved the vivid colors and symmetry of the fruit, vegetables and grain used in these carpets. 

Fruit was also hung across streets, similar to hanging white christmas lights.

Fruit was also hung across streets, similar to hanging white christmas lights.

The base of several carpets was made using dyed sawdust.

The base of several carpets was made using dyed sawdust.

Here's a FRUIT and VEGETABLE staging area. What a mess!

Here's a FRUIT and VEGETABLE staging area. What a mess!

Looking at the carpets reminded me of looking at impressionist paintings. Up Close they have a lot of color and design. Stand Back and the beauty truly shines.

Looking at the carpets reminded me of looking at impressionist paintings. Up Close they have a lot of color and design. Stand Back and the beauty truly shines.

One of the longer carpets we saw. It was common to see a long carpet as a collection of several pictures or designs.

One of the longer carpets we saw. It was common to see a long carpet as a collection of several pictures or designs.

Ela was ECSTATICc at each new carpet. It's so much fun to experience her joy during these times.

Ela was ECSTATICc at each new carpet. It's so much fun to experience her joy during these times.

In our town, processions took place on Friday afternoon and lasted for hours. Hundreds of people followed the procession as parishioners carried heavy floats depicting scenes from Christ's crucifixion

About two hours after we took this picture, the procession walked down this road. They couldn't have AVOIDED walking on the carpet as the streets are narrow and the processions were wide.

About two hours after we took this picture, the procession walked down this road. They couldn't have AVOIDED walking on the carpet as the streets are narrow and the processions were wide.

The first signs that the procession was coming.

The first signs that the procession was coming.

It's about to get exciting!

It's about to get exciting!

Incense. 

Incense. 

The hand carried float.

The hand carried float.

several men followed this float ready to take their turn when it was time. we saw women carrying another float.

several men followed this float ready to take their turn when it was time. we saw women carrying another float.

The Bad

Panajachel was invaded during Semana Santa! The lake's beauty makes it a popular destination for Guatemalans looking to get away. After all, we're only 2 1/2 hours from Guatemala City. This invasion brought a lot of business to the lake, but it also brought a lot of people simply looking to party. Yes, once upon a time, that was us as well. Chicken buses brought loads of travelers. Hotels and hostels were full. The streets were crowded, and we were on top alert for pick-pockets and other petty theft. Beeping horns, bombas (fire crackers) and megahorns blasted loud sounds around the clock. 

The Ugly

The worst was the bad behavior by competing alcohol companies and others selling cheap drinks to meet the needs of the heavy drinkers. As you entered town, you saw girls dancing in skimpy outfits and handing out free t-shirts to passengers in cars.

Doesn't this remind you of the opening scenes in Pretty Woman?

Doesn't this remind you of the opening scenes in Pretty Woman?

Go another hundred yards and you'd meet the Brahva Girls. Their see-through white outfits left even less to the imagination. The girls were super friendly though. They posed for pictures and danced with anyone that joined them. 

The friendly Brahva Girls! We can tell you what kind and color underwear each was wearing.

The friendly Brahva Girls! We can tell you what kind and color underwear each was wearing.

If the Gallo and Brahva girls hadn't convinced you to start drinking, there were plenty of others who tried! Several individuals walked the streets wearing big posters advertising liquor and were ready to pour you a shot. 

This is a Guatemalan Liquor, similar to Jagermeister.

This is a Guatemalan Liquor, similar to Jagermeister.

Haven't found what you're looking for? Try this table. They can make anything!

Haven't found what you're looking for? Try this table. They can make anything!

And for those that needed a bucket, why not fill it with one of Guatemala's popular drinks, the Michelada? This is a Mexican beer drink made with beer, lime juice, assorted sauces, spices and peppers. Think Bloody Mary meets beer. They're actually quite tasty, but I can only drink half of one, let alone an entire bucket. 

Buckets of Micheladas for less than $3.

Buckets of Micheladas for less than $3.

4 beers for $1.25. This isn't just about beer anymore. Sadly, because of these prices, many restaurants and bars sell less alcohol than during a regular week. Some vendors close because it's not worth their resources to lower prices in order to compete with these specials.

4 beers for $1.25. This isn't just about beer anymore. Sadly, because of these prices, many restaurants and bars sell less alcohol than during a regular week. Some vendors close because it's not worth their resources to lower prices in order to compete with these specials.

Tag referred to Semana Santa as Beer Week! At age six, he could easily identify the changes in our little town. 

More of The Good

We escaped most of the week to a friend's Hobbit House (think Yurt with separate kitchen and bathroom) across the lake. It was quiet, warm and generally peaceful. We took long walks with the kids and explored the smaller pueblos around the lake. Because of this, we used AirBNB to rent our house in Pana for two nights, essentially paying for our week of expenses.  

Heading to the lancha to catch a boat to the other side of the lake. 2 hours in Pana was all the craziness we needed. 

Heading to the lancha to catch a boat to the other side of the lake. 2 hours in Pana was all the craziness we needed. 

Ahhh...the lake...Taken from our dock in Santa Cruz

Ahhh...the lake...Taken from our dock in Santa Cruz

I was able to have some great conversations with Ela about the dancing beer girls and guys. Did I mention that the dancing beer guys were dressed as cans of beer - no sex appeal what-so-ever. 

Th e Brahva Guys dancing with the Brahva Girls. 

Th e Brahva Guys dancing with the Brahva Girls. 

Finally, the festive atmosphere in Pana also brought out some great vendors. The wheel barrow full of fresh gummy candies tied with Chocolate Bob's Sipping Chocolate for our favorites. 

Other vendors. These booths reminded us of "As seen on TV" and other trinkets sold at the Washington state fair.

Other vendors. These booths reminded us of "As seen on TV" and other trinkets sold at the Washington state fair.

Sadly, our spring break is over. 10 more weeks of school and we transition to homeschooling. We're excited for the adventures ahead of us, whatever they may be!