26.03.-02.04.2012: Huehuetenango - El Tejar - Antigua

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We returned to the Tourist Police camping area in Antigua and stayed until after Easter. There were several motor homes and campers - all European. Julie who is French works for Cirque du Soleil with her husband Antonio (who was currently in Ecuador) and travel around doing charity projects. She set up her trapeze and we couldn't resist! But Helen could only just reach it with her finger tips when she jumped up!! It's a wonder she managed to keep hold! (See video below)

Circus acrobats on the campground.

Staying at the campground is free but we have to clean the toilets and showers and buy various items like toilet paper for the police who live there. We were lucky this time because Guillermo was staying there and he said he would clean the toilets and showers. We were extremely grateful so we provided the rubber gloves, and cleaning supplies for him to do it.

Guillermo is an interesting guy who is not on a holiday but more like an endurance test. He is travelling all the way from Canada to South America on a pedal bike and is only living off the money he can earn as he goes. He's originally from Mexico and is growing his hair long so he can donate it to be made into wigs for children who have leukaemia.

He was staying in one of the unused buildings at the campground for free and got a job working on the local market. He brought back rejected fruit and veg almost every day and offered it around to others. Guenther and Doris, from Austria and Switzerland respectively, invited him around for evening meals and whenever we bought banana bread from the wonderful bakery in Antigua we always gave him a few pieces so he was more than happy!

We also met Heinz and Sole, from Austria and Spain respectively and spent an evening with them, Guenther and Doris and Guillermo and ended up speaking mainly Spanish because it was the one language we all had in common and could all speak at least a little of.

We managed to do a bit of cleaning and some of the website done but most of the time we ended up talking to the various people on the campground, swapping tips etc. In between we managed to find out about the processions that were taking place - after all that was the reason we had come back to Antigua!

It's estimated that around 200,000 people flock to this Colonial gem of a town every year to watch the colourful Semana Santa celebrations between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. There are more than a dozen major processions that take place plus some smaller ones during this week.

The procession tradition is said to have started in Guatemala in 1524 and, today, most Semana Santa processions include two main andas or floats. The first carries a scene from the life of Jesus. The second carries a depiction of the Virgin Mary. Some of the processions last for 15 hours and cover many miles.

We went to watch the procession on Palm Sunday which is the Sunday before Easter commemorating Jesus' triumphal return to Jerusalem on a donkey and palm leaves were strewn along the road. There was a procession that started at 11am and finished at 10-30pm. We walked along the route two hours before it started to see some of the carpets.

We spoke to the people making them and for one family it was the fourth carpet they were making at a cost of around $70 US and they were going to make more throughout the week. That's a lot of money for people who certainly are not wealthy.

Some of the people kept their pets on their window ledges behind the grate to keep them from running over the carpets and destroying them. One dog called Gusco was really cute.

Antigua Procession on Palm Sunday - Part 1.

When we went back to Winnie for lunch he was surrounded by cars. The area at the tourist police is also used as a car park for the week. We went out again in the afternoon to see more of the procession but it started raining just after 6pm so we dashed back to the campground just as it started to pour.

Antigua Procession on Palm Sunday - Part 2.