Friday, April 14, 2006

Antigua is the place to be!

For you heathens out there, today is Good Friday. I am one of the heathens, so I wouldn't normally care. But here in Antigua, Good Friday is a BIG fucking deal. I have seen about 100+ 'carpets', numerous processions and more truly pious peolpe than I've ever seen before all in one place. And one incredibly rude Frenchman.

Check this out - I've found a place to stand in La Merced Church at 6am, which is when the first procession is going to leave. The devout outnumber the tourists by, well, a whole freaking lot. So as the Lord's Prayer echos through the church, followed closely by Hail Mary, I try to appear as respectful as possible. When the Jesús Nazareno comes parallel to my position, the families around me kneel. So I kneel. Then this French asshole starts stepping over the kneeling devout - including the 80+ year old lady who had needed help to get down on her knees. He manages to step over her as she was getting help trying to get up, and literally knocks her back down to her knees. I wanted to slug the guy.

But enough negative stuff. This place is truly amazing. I am so grateful I've been able to watch these incredible people express their faith. I wish I believed like they do, but sadly, I'm still solidly athesist. Oh well.

This trip has been all about serendipity. I really didn't have any plans when I came down, except maybe I knew I wanted to go hike the volcanos. The one I hiked is called Pacaya - and a new lava flow had broken through at 6am that morning! I could walk right up to the flow if I wanted to... but given that it's LAVA it was a little too hot to do that. (Duh. right?) Actually, the fact that lava is hot doesn't seem to be a given to some people. One of the guides (!) walked up to the flow, put his gloved hand on one of the cooling flows and then snatched his hand away, saying in a suprised (!) voice, "It's hot!"

Good to know stupidity is universal. Yargh.

But anyway, back to serendipity. I woke up this morning and wandered over to La Merced to catch the start of the procession. After Jesus had been launched (more on that some other time) I started wandering looking for carpets. The carpets are art laid out on the street made out of flowers, fruits and veggies or stained sawdust - and they are beautiful. Some depict Christ, some depict the stations of the crucifixion and some are just abstract. But they are all wonderful and exceedingly fleeting. See, they are completed just before the procession arrives. During the procession, only those carrying the float are allowed to step on the carpets. In so doing, every carpet is destroyed. Some of the sawdust carpets take 20 people 12 to 14 hours to complete... and the completed project only lasts about 1 hour. The flower carpets are deliberately left incomplete until minutes before the arrival of the procession, to ensure maximum freshness.

So I'm looking for carpets, and here is when we finally get around to one of the best chance encounters ever. I managed to run into a tour by Elizabeth Bell, who is famous for the quality of her tours. So I tagged along. It was so good that I asked to pay and officially became part of the group. The quality was just too good to mooch. So from 7am to 9am I got to wander around Antigua with the best in the business. And all for less than $12! I have so many pictures that I have to pay the guy running this café to burn it all to a CD so that I can get more room back.

I can't wait to get home and post some of them.

It is a good damn day to be alive.


Me said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Me said...

Okay, lemme try that again.

This all sounds amazing, and I'm jealous.

I do have amazing pictures in my head though, of Jesus being launched. Was he on a catapult or something?

We already know I'm hell-bound, right? (evil grin)

Can't wait to see pictures.

Miss you muy, muy mucho!