All Saints Day 2nd November, Antigua Guatemala

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All Saints Day 2nd November, Antigua Guatemala

The first weekend in November for the last 68 years, and following the Mayan Day of the Dead, comes the turn for the Spanish Catholics.
We heard about this only on the day, so we grabbed two tuk-tuks and went with our friends to wait near Esceula de Cristo.

As we stood around at the start we felt a little out of place.
Everyone was dressed nicely and in negro, or black.
Priests and followers from many regions gathered outside the church, around the square waiting for the 4 p.m. start.
As we waited outside a home, the lovely folk came out and offered us a small fruit – I cannot remember the name, even though they told us about 5 times. It is small with edible peel and a large stone inside. A little squishy. A little sour, and with the flesh a little like mango.  The kids didn’t like it, but I ate 2 as they are about the size of an apricot.
They were friendly people and explained to us what the meaning of the day was, so we felt comfortable being included in their custom of the day.

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The priests wore velvet long coats and funny shaped elf-like hats.
Some wore a picture postcard pinned to their clothes with a ribbon.
It was quite a wait, and the sun was hot, but I am glad we did.
To me, this is still world education, and I think Explorason will remember some of it for years to come.
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I wandered over to the square.  There the incense was being ‘blessed’ and the charcoal lit.
Soon the area became quite pungent and smoke-filled, and was a bit hard to handle, especially for the kids.

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Next, we heard the band start in the church.
An amazing sight beheld us, emerging from the massive doors.
The throng was led with huge silver crosses and hooded men as they started the procession around the square.

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Some carriers were very old, and some were very young.  All were proud to be part of this day to remember the departed.

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Only men were there in the procession, at the start, and caped priests from other regions soon joined them.
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My son decided to join the line-up.
These men line the sides in preparation for the passing of the float.
Each name is written by the priest of all those in the procession.

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Soon a young ‘bride’ joins in the march.

Then it is our try for the massive float to pass by.
There are men under the heavy float, and men at the front and the rear rocking the float so they can get it around corners.  About 100 men in total bear the pain of this heavy wood carved float, and each side bearing place has a number.
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This float represents a part of the cemetery.
The center is a glass case with the ‘body of Christ’.
So really they are trying to share the pain and suffering of his death.
Overshadowing is the Angel Gabriel, and the Virgin Mary weeping at the sadness of her son’s death.
If you look at the picture below, you can just see the legs of the men under the float, and they would be crushed to death if it fell!

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Here the float is rocked around the corner.
Men with long metal poles lift the electric wires up higher in the sky so the float can pass.
Tombs, tombstones, angels, and seraphim along with the forged metal sides of the cemetery, are clearly seen.

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The agony on some of the men’s faces in clearly visible.
A priest comes by to ask if they are bearing up – they each have 1 block to walk, and I see a man give in and be replaced, as he walks off with severe shoulder and back pain.

The centerman in the picture below is unable to carry on, and he is replaced.  The difficulty too is men are of different heights so this must make some men stoop more.

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Now you can see the casket. Inside lies a replica of Christ. Bloody and barely clothed.

You can clearly see in the photo below how it is meant to look like part of a cemetery.
This is to remember their dead, loved ones departed, and those dearly missed.
This is a Catholic procession, and I am a Christian so not of their faith, but it still is very touching to see.
Strangely, it reminds me of my Mum who passed away years ago, and it does bring a tear to my eye as I will always miss her.
So I can see why they remember their dead.
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As it rounds the next corner we head off.
Many follow.  This procession I am told goes through to at least midnight. Others told me too well into the early hours of the morning.
It walks most of the streets of Antigua and is lit when it gets dark.
We decided we will try to get to a higher point to see the sunset and see if we can see it below.

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So we walk past the washing troughs in a hope of getting a tuk-tuk.  The crowd slowly disperses and we say farewell to our friends.

Opposite the ruins of another church with well worn carved features is slowly eroding away.

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We grab a tuk-tuk, but we then get stuck in ‘traffic’. He turns into the procession area, so we sit for a good half hour and wait.  We have been told of a place on the hill with spectacular town views.
We finally get part way and the streets are closed off.
So we then walk through an old convent.

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Tiled seats and a beautiful garden lie behind the walls, and it once was also an old hotel but is now offices.

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Many tiled plaques are on the walls.  Explorason sets me up for a pose. He is enjoying his photography right now, so I am obliging.

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We then climb up on a couple of the roof areas.  It is quite run down in parts of the building.

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Then we climb an old metal staircase. To the right is an old swimming pool. It now stores rubbish. Such a shame.  We get to walk over the roof. Next door, there are more ruins.

We stop and look across at one of the volcanoes.
Old seats are in disrepair, and once I am sure the nuns would have come up for a quiet moment with God.
We then head to Santo Domingo, but because the streets are closed off, we walk.
That is OK. We get to see a floral carpet, lovingly made by the residents.  They will be waiting hours for the procession to pass, but are dressed like a wedding is to commence.
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We round the corner and there is another floral carpet. The bed looks like pine needles, and the man waters it with care.  The interesting thing is that the procession will destroy the hours of work.

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As we get to Santo Domingo we pass a last. She is very young and is weaving one of the table runners.  I told her I would go back and wish I had, as I love authentic hand-made items, not those machine made.

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Soon we are on the grounds of Santo Domingo.
This is a 5-star hotel, and also has a museum, and ruins inside.

There are many rooms and shops of art. Carved wood pieces grace the grounds.
Explorason sets up a photo of this – he wants to draw it.  He loves to draw, and I encourage his passion for art.

We then walk past where the ruins are.  They are setting up the sunset candles, and a wedding will soon start, and guests mingle around the grounds.

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Graves and tombs are in the grounds too, and my son quite likes looking around and seeing the history.

We then head to the gallery area.  Again Explorason enjoys the art. His dream is to attend an Art school in Paris.  I hope I can get him there one day.  I also enjoy sketching, so it is interesting we have the same passion, yet he has been free to peruse whatever he enjoys, I have never in any way led him down this path.

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We head back to the gardens just as it is sunset. It is quite magical!

We wander around for the next few minutes. We meet several families and we all talk and exchange cameras for photos.  I have learned a great way to meet people, is by simply tang their photo for them. 9/10 times, a conversation starts!

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We are hungry and decide to walk back to the town center for dinner.
Just as we exit the grounds the procession passes. We get to see the lit tomb and float.
How good was this!  Even though we were unable to get up the hill to see it, here it was passing right by us, and all lit up too.
The crowd now is so thick we can’t get past.  I step back as I don’t want to be pickpocketed and this would be prime time.  So we wait 5 minutes and they are gone.
We wander through the designer traditional handicraft stores and I am in awe of the fabrics and crafts.
I gain a few ideas but am glad my credit card is locked away back in town.
Then we see a family that has finished their part of the procession.
Their son is so young and is now tired after his march.
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We feel quite safe in the streets. There are so many people. The town is a buzz. We rarely go out in the dark, but it is such a pretty place when lit up at night.

It has been an amazing day.  I have thoroughly enjoyed it.  Do visit Santo Domingo if you go to Antigua.  I hope we go back another day.  I am falling in love with Antigua!

Questions and Comments
  • Are you a family that permanently travels around the world?
  • What is your take on families that travel permanently?
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