March 2008 Issue: Jesus vs. Maximón

Don’t get us wrong, February was great. Had the whole Valentine’s Day thing,march08 not to mention the annual XelaWho company picnic and softball game. But we here at the XelaWho are stoked – to bring back a word – for March. Why? The Atitlán music festival is coming to town, featuring a wide variety of bands and performers and boasting one of the world’s most beautiful backdrops? Saint Patrick’s Day is also on its way, complete with green beer, soda bread and hilarious drunken phone calls from my family. Chilly nights and mornings? Over. Mango season? Just beginning. As if all that weren’t enough, Semana Santa, the holiest of holy weeks, is upon us.

So what’s so hot about a week-long Christian holiday that doesn’t even offer any candy or magical bunnies? Guatemalans don’t just observe the holiday; they celebrate it. Instead of reading depressing psalms or engaging in self-abnegation, people put on their flashy robes, decorate the streets and most importantly, have fun.

Fasting? No sir. Large crowds bring enterprising food vendors eager to sell you a delicious tamal with some atol de elote at a cut-rate price.

Abstention from alcohol? Far from it. Maximón, one of the most important figures during Semana Santa, is the patron saint of drinking and smoking.

Interminable, boring church services? Not happening. While los Evangelicos certainly don’t shy away from group prayer, they liven it up with colorful processions that incorporate Mayan deities and beliefs into traditional church customs. In addition, Paul Simon’s “The Sound of Silence” always seems to be playing and nobody ever knows why, though I still can’t decide whether this is a positive or a negative.

So whether you plan to attend the world famous processions in Antigua, sit back and relax at the lake or stay home in Xela, enjoy your Semana Santa. But don’t go too crazy. After all, Jesus is watching.

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