You may be wondering why, in the March issue, we’re talking about Easter. Well check this out, heathen: Easter around these parts starts 40 days before what you and I know as Chocolate Egg Day. So put your baskets away, pull up a pew and get ready as we drop some serious Easter science.
The 40 days before Easter are, to serious Chrsitians, known as Lent (or if you want to get local about it, la cuaresma). Depending on your particular branch of Christianity, Sundays are included in the count or not, but regardless it’s a time for prayer, reflection, penitence and (sorry, but we have to say it) self-denial.
The whole fasting thing varies depending on your particular belief, too – some abstain from eating meat on Fridays (seeing it as akin to eating the flesh of Christ) and others outright refuse to eat while the sun is up. As far as special Easter foods go, Guatemala has very few, although there is a dish called pescado seco (dried fish) that is made after soaking dehydrated, salted fish in water then cooking it as you wish. It’s about as tasty as it sounds. Don’t fret, though – tamales and atol are a big part of the tradition, too, and the vendors seem to come out of the woodwork to capitalize on all the people on the streets around this time of year.
As in just about every other way, where Antigua has the gaudiest, most over the top Easter celebrations, Quetzaltenango goes about the whole business alot more quietly and seriously. Yes, there are still parades and the odd sawdust carpet around town, but for the most part Quetzaltecos celebrate Easter the way it should be celebrated: by escaping to the beach to drink beer and get sunburnt like a cooked lobster.
One somewhat unique aspect of the season that you’re almost sure to see around these parts is the Huelga de Dolores, a century-plus tradition at the local San Carlos University where students don capes and KKK-style hoods and go around demanding money from local businesses in exchange for not painting their shopfronts with burnt tar. The money collected goes to… uh… charitable works. We think.
If you see some San Carlistas out on the street shaking the can, we recommend making a token donation. You remember how it was in college when you had no beer money, don’t you?