PHOTOS: Palm Sunday in an indigenous Guatemala town

March 29, 2015

Thousands of Guatemalans from the largely indigenous town of San Pedro Sacatepéquez, some 30 kilometers west of the capital, recreated Jesus’s arrival in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the official start of Holy Week.

A 14-year-old white burro named Rito led the procession, carrying on his back a wooden image of Jesus in a white tunic and red robe.

A white burro carries a wooden replica of Jesus down a path in the woods.
Johan Ordoñez/AFP

The procession passed over multicolored “alfombras,”  or carpets, made up of pine needles, died sawdust and flowers that residents made in the early hours of the day. Spectators cheered and raised palm fronds among clouds of incense.

Detail of the flower carpet made for the traditional Palm Sunday procession  on March 29, 2015 in San Pedro Sacatepéquez.
Detail of the flower carpet made for the traditional Palm Sunday procession on March 29, 2015 in San Pedro Sacatepéquez. Johan Ordonez/AFP

Holy Week comes with strong traditions in Guatemala, including massive floats carried by devout Catholics and the elaborate carpets. The holiday was declared Intangible Culture Patrimony of the Nation in 2008 with the backing of UNESCO.

Overview of the procession leaving the church.
Johan Ordoñez/AFP

In this Maya Kakchiquel town, prominent members of the Catholic Church wore white tunics, while men and women in traditional dress accompanied the procession.

The procession lasted about an hour through the steep streets of this impoverished town of some 45,000 inhabitants, surrounded by pine and cypress trees.

Women in Mayan dress along the procession route.
Johan Ordoñez/AFP
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