Semana Santa in Antigua: Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday

It is a travel lie that Semana Santa is over in Antigua after Good Friday. The number and intensity of processions may wane, but they do not end. And come on, don’t you want to know the end of the story?

On Saturday the women take center stage grieving. The Virgin of Loneliness is the only float on this day, finally full sized and only women are allowed to carry it. Her eyes and face shimmer as she weeps. That evening, I sat with a friend at a wine bar (finally, some decent wine on this trip!) under the yellow arch and clouds of incense swept in as the procession of the Virgin passed. The taste of wine with the smell of incense… ah, church.

On Easter Sunday, the public displays of penance are over and the celebration is positive and informal. One small procession celebrates the resurrected Jesus accompanied by singing and joyful music with trumpet, xylophone, and cymbals. Firecrackers set off in very close quarters to the crowd replace the clouds of incense. Semana Santa pro tip: come with prepared alternative expletives other than “Jesus!” for when you stub your toe or a firecracker goes off right next to you.

Performers in plain clothes leading the procession.
An easter lily, about to meet its trampled doom.
Firecrackers going off in the crowd.
Woot Jesus!

On Monday, I took the opportunity to see Antigua in a calmer state after most of the Semana Santa visitors had left. The whole city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and used to be the Spanish colonial capital before an earthquake devastated the city in 1773 and the capital was moved. Ruins from that time still litter the city (and are favorite necking spots for young locals). I visited the ruins of the old cathedral, just behind the current one. Tucked away in an alcove I found the white sailboat float from Good Friday and lo, the glass box tomb was empty. I love that even their storage methods are on message. The lord is risen indeed.

The ruined cathedral, reaching for the sky.
What’s that back there? Looks familiar…

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