Thursday, March 28, 2013

An Easter to remember

This is a nice time of year in Copan Ruinas. Semana Santa - the week leading into Easter - is a crazy-big holiday in Honduras, with hundreds of thousands of local travellers on the move. But Copan gets just enough of that scene to make the town feel energized without crossing into insanity.
Tonight, the main street will be full of volunteers building the two-block-long alfombras made from coloured sawdust. Using giant stencils to create beautiful sawdust art in a rainbow of colours, the volunteers will work into the wee hours tonight making a street mural that celebrates Jesus and tells the story of these very special holy days for Christians. 
All day tomorrow, people will make their way carefully past the stretch of sawdust paintings, and perhaps climb a big ladder at one end of the street that lets you take in all of that creativity at once. In cities like Comayagua, where they're marking 50 years of alfombras, the art works just keep getting more intricate and amazing.
The beautiful sight isn't meant to last, which is perhaps what makes the alfombras seem so special. Mere hours after their creation, they are destroyed underfoot as a Catholic procession walks down them on their way to the main church. Last year, reverent locals followed behind the procession, gathering up small containers of the coloured sawdust as a keepsake of the moment. 
The weather has been cooler than usual this week, which I'm sure will be a relief to those who participate in the reenactment of the Stations of the Cross. It's quite a trek for the crowd, which numbered in the thousands last year. 
The main Catholic church is in the little valley where the town centre is, but the procession makes its way up and down some of the town's steep little hills leading out of the centre. Some people in the procession are carrying almost life-size statues of Jesus and Mary the whole time so they can reenact the last time Mary kissed her son before his death. Last year, the heat was relentless on the poor sods sweating under their
heavy cargo. 
Today, the street where jewellery sellers set up their stalls was strewn with pine needles, a fragrant carpet that  is a tradition here anytime someone throws a celebration. Birthday parties, special days, religious holidays - all are a reason to break out the pine needles.
 The jewellry street in Copan tends to look a little half-baked for much of the year, but the pine needles and the tents that some of the vendors put up this week have it looking like a happening place. I saw all kinds of new faces making their way down the street today, and the vendors looked happy to be busy. 
A lot of stores closed today and will stay that way through Sunday. My office takes the whole week off, as do many organizations and government bodies. Everybody's on the move, travelling here and there to spend the holiday with their families. More than 150,000 people a day will pass through San Pedro Sula's big bus terminal this week. 
So we have made it a point to stay put these past two Semana Santas. We travel in place, watching this little town change and be changed by the influx of Honduran tourists who are on the move at this time of year. The tilapia seller was set up on the sidewalk yesterday with her giant garbage cans full of gasping fish for sale, and I expect the budgie seller (five lempiras apiece) and the coloured-chick vendors will be showing up soon. There's probably three or four times as many food vendors on the streets as is the norm, and the entire downtown smells rather lusciously of  meat skewers grilling over charcoal.
Whatever your religious beliefs, may this weekend bring you peace and pleasant times with friends and family. At this time of year in a predominantly Catholic country, you feel how special the week is regardless of whether you believe.
Lord, give me the grace to celebrate this occasion. Palm Sunday did not last - what does? But while we dance together, it is a foretaste of heaven. - Philippines 2:6-11.

1 comment:

Owen Gray said...

It is only on rare occasions, Jody, that we get a foretaste of heaven.