April 2010 Issue: Semana Santa…Hold the Claus

April is a month of renewal and change. Of Easter bunnies. And over the top57-Cover pomp when the Holy Week/Semana Santa show is in town.

If you haven’t been in Xela or Antigua during Semana Santa, you’re in for a special treat. It’s Guatemala at its classiest and most flamboyant, sort of like Mardi Gras in New Orleans – only menos the nudity, alcohol & beads. Sounds boring, but far from it.

The festivities revolve around the religious processions organized by each Catholic church in town.  Each consists of participants of all ages in elegant regalia, hopelessly off-key bands and ‘floats’ of the big JC and his mamita, Maria. The processions kick off early in the week and culminate on Good Friday, or Viernes Santo. Have a walk near the churches on Friday morning to see the all-age crews crafting elaborate street murals made of sawdust. These carpets are the ‘welcome mats’ for the grandest processions that happen in the afternoon and on into the night.

The big nighttime convergence on the Parque Central is a spectacle not to be missed. It’s when all of the processions, accented by lots of groovy illumination, come together in one big, holy moly classic Guatemalan-style organized disorder. Doh, don’t forget your camera!

The other April change in the air will be the weather. Those dry afternoons and evenings will become ever rarer and thunder will begin to accompany the afternoon cloud roll-in. If you haven’t gotten an umbrella yet, get one. And get in the habit of tossing it in your Dora la Exploradora mochila-mochila daily because you’ll need it.

Your reliable friend XelaWho will soon see some changes as well. I, James Gray, have had the incredible honor of editing these pages for over a year, and this is my final issue as cat herder in chief. While I’ve been volunteering at a forest project for a year, my gig at XelaWho has allowed me to not only afford to eat but also to build a deeper relationship to Xela’s people and places than I had ever imagined possible. It is also the closest experience to being a rock star that I’ve ever had. Thanks to the big boss for the opportunity to be the Bill O’Reilly…nay, John Stewart of journalism in Xela.

The incoming Grand Poobah is Steve Mullaney, a teacher and a long-time writer friend of XelaWho. If you’ve found yourself laughing so hard at an article that you uncontrollably snorted Gallo through your nostrils, it was probably one of his. With many fond memories I hereby pass the quill on to Steve. Godspeed to you, my good man (you’re going to need it with these high maintenance readers of ours!) and Happy Semana Santa to all!

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