Editor’s Note: This is a guest post written by Mike C. If you are travel blogger and interested in providing a guest post, drop me a line.
Early morning in Antigua is an interesting time in Guatemala’s former capital. The cloud and rain is slowly clearing from the previous evening, exposing the huge volcanoes which loom over the town.
Sunday morning churchgoers throng the cobbled streets, talking excitedly while mingling with market vendors. They are calling out to tourists and locals alike, trying to sell their goods, fruits, spices, live chickens and the usual array of tourist knick-knacks.
Just on the edge of the market, next to the constant bustling bus station, the beggars are also preparing for a day’s work. Be it the amputee holding out his hand with a withered look on his face, or the overweight blind man who plays his harmonica when he hears footsteps pass him by – they too are preparing for their day.
These chaotic scenes are in contrast to the peaceful rooftop morning I was enjoying as the sun rose. The rooftop of my hostel offered me a awesome vantage point of the town and the surrounding foothills.
In these foothills fireworks echo throughout the town and valley, festivities, evidently are about to commence.
To the west and the main town square, just about visible, a church procession is meandering its way slowly through the streets. Led by an impressive full-on brass band, the procession sways in time to the music.
This procession is made up of a huge wooden alter, with the obligatory Jesus, kneeling in prayer, perched atop. The alter is carried by a mass of black suits, roughly 90 men in total, all suited and booted, carry the giant alter.
The smell of incense hangs heavily in the air as groups of suited men gather in groups. Sharing smokes, many are glued to their mobile phones, talking excitedly.
Beautiful women, dressed in virgin white, line the streets. Numbering around 90, they are lined 45, on each side of side of the road. Clearly something is about to happen.
The air of anticipation is evident among the group of women, they fidget, talk in hushed voices and stare towards the procession slowly edging its way towards them.
The procession slows down even more, coming to a halt. It’s clear the men are struggling, sweat drips from their foreheads, many have their eyes closed firmly – whether this is religious devotion or simply the strain of carrying the alter is unclear.
What does become clear thought is the fact that the alter is about to be passed to the group of immaculately dressed women. Will the women be able to take the strain that afflicted so many of the men? Incredibly, yes – the women effortlessly take the strain. The changeover is seamless over in a matter of seconds.
The band finds its voice once more and the sound of drums and horns fill the streets, propelling the procession forward once more.
I’m soon lost in the crowd as they too start to inch forward, following the procession. I turn to my friend and puff out my cheeks, impressed with what we’ve just witnessed.“Bit of brekkie?” I say as we turn and walk away from the crowd.
A strange Sunday morning in Antigua is drawing to a close.