Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Semana Santa Processions. Children's Procession.

Today, it was the kids turn to showcase their devotion to Christ.

It all started earlier in the day when the boys and I were visiting La Merced. As we entered the church courtyard, we heard the shouts and pitter patter of a lot feet. We had no idea what was going on until we asked a woman who, in very good English, explained to us that the children were at the church to pick up their badges to march in the procession.


Because the procession takes 5 hours to wind its way through the streets of Antigua, children swap off every few blocks.  The badge indicates the block and float position that each child occupies.  Everything was so well organized; it's obvioius this town has put on this celebration many times before!

Seeing that were are tourists, the woman asked us if we would like to see how the purple outfit is actually worn and we replied "Yes" so she had her son put it on for us. He was so cute!





It was obviously a matter of pride for the mother that her son was marching in the procession - he had been doing it since he was a baby and this was going to be his last year participating as a child. I guess next year he joins the ranks of the adults.

She also told us to go to the Escuela de Christo as there would be events related to today's Children's Procession.  We did make it to the church but did not find anything happening.  So we decided we needed to find the procession which turned out to be easier said than done.  By now it was about 5pm.  The procession had been going on for about two hours.  Even though we had a map of the procession route, the challenge we faced was trying to figure out exactly where we needed to be to get in front of the procession so we could see it going by. Thanks to help from a policeman and other Antiguenos, we eventually ended up at Calzada Santa Lucia which is one of the main avenues in town.  When we arrived, I saw hundreds of little bodies scampering around in the same purple outfits that the little boy had donned for us back at La Merced.  My eyes were telling me we were at the right spot!

Since this was our first procession, we had no idea how the processions actually take place.  So, we just found some good viewing spots and waited. 

Soon, we could hear the music being played by the marching band that accompanies the float.  We craned our necks and way, way, way in the distance we saw what we thought was the top of the float.  Passing before us were boys carrying banners and waving incense carriers.  The smoky incense was pretty overwhelming to my sense of smell.  I found myself having to cover my nose each time the carriers passed by me.


The first float to pass us by was that of Jesus Christ. We had seen the float earlier on in the day, sitting in waiting inside La Merced church. Now, it was being paraded through the streets, borne on the shoulders of boys. Even though there were adults helping out up front, small boys were indeed carrying the float. Parents accompanied their child.  It was a mass of people walking alongside the float.  It was an incredible sight!!


The float carrying Jesus Christ was immediately followed by one carrying the Virgin Mary.  We had also seen this same float inside La Merced.  The figure atop the float depicts Mary weeping over her son's crucifixion.  The float was carried down the streets by girls dressed in white with white veils covering their heads.  I'm guessing the color white because it represents virginity.




The atmosphere surrounding the procession was simply electric - there was almost a carnival like feel in the air.  Though the procession depicted a solemn event in religious history, the mood was very upbeat.  Children runnng about the streets, toy vendors shouting out their items for sale and parents looking very proud.  It was an event unlike anything I had ever experienced before in my life and it was just the start of things to come.  I cannot wait to see how the other larger, grander processions play out!!