Good Friday Guatemala: Sawdust Carpet Panorama and Semana Santa Slideshow

Ever wondered what sawdust carpets have to do with Good Friday?

In the town of Antigua, Guatemalan Catholics recognize the climax of Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebrations by painstakingly crafting colorful sawdust carpets called alfombras, only to watch them be demolished by somber processions of men and boys clad in purple robes.

In the panorama below, you’ll see an alfombra laid on a cobblestone street. Families and friends work together through the night and into the day to create these intricate and beautiful designs out of bits of dyed sawdust. When it’s finished, the carpet is sprayed with water to keep it in place.

That is, until the next procession comes along, walks over it and destroys it. And with their steps, it’s gone forever.

360-Degree Panorama: Semana Santa Alfombra in Antigua, Guatemala

panorama directions

Like the transitory nature of a Tibetan Buddhist sand mandala, creation and destruction of an alfombra serves as a metaphor for the cycle of life and death.

Rather in line with the spirit of Good Friday and Easter, no?

To all those celebrating, we wish you a Happy Easter!


For more on Semana Santa in Antigua, Guatemala: Holy Gaucamole, It’s Semana Santa!

Semana Santa in Antigua Photo Set


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  1. says

    Hi Dan and Audrey, my wife and I visited Guatemala in 2007 during Santa Semana and it was one of the travel highlights of my life. The color and pageantry were amazing. The processions in Antigua were great and then we spent Good Friday in the small town of Santiago Atitlan on Lake Atitlan, where they staged incredibly ornate festivities that included an hours-long procession with young boys carrying a massive glass casket for Jesus, who had been taken down off the cross, and an appearance by Mayan fold saint Maximon. It was incredible and fascinating! Here’s a gallery with some pics if you’re interested. Thanks for continually posting great stuff!

  2. says

    @Gregory: We went through Santiago Atitlan during Semana Santa (a few days before Good Friday) and loved the church and spirit there. I can imagine it must have been a great place to be for Good Friday. Thanks for sharing your experience and photos.

  3. says

    These are beautiful! On Corpus Christi the residents of Maringa-PR, Brasil would do sawdust carpets around the cathedral, but nothing quite this extravagant. To watch the process and see the result is amazing.

  4. Elisa says

    This is really interesting, especially the terminology they use. In Spanish, “alfombra” generally means rug/carpet, but nothing specific to this tradition. I’ve never been to Guatemala though, so I wonder if there they use a different word for a ‘regular’ rug and use “alfombra” just for these sand rugs.

  5. says

    @Elisa: I’m trying to reach back into my brain for the Spanish we learned in Guatemala to answer your question. I believe that Guatemalans also refer to regular carpets/rugs as alfombra. But, when it’s around Semana Santa time or in context, alfombra refers to these sawdust designs on the ground.

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