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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!