Night Procession

April 9, 2010

The municipality distributed maps of the procession routes, but all you had to do was walk out on the street and follow the drums. We found this one completely by accident. My mother sat down to rest on a barricade while I walked down the street to take photos, and when I turned around there was a crowd and Romans with torches in chariots. You can hear the processions long before you see them. Families lined the street to wait for a glimpse of the andas, the children playing and adults gossiping. Then came the rows of men in nylon purple robes talking on their cell phones and women in white mantillas leading their daughters by the hands, and enough incense to cloud the street.  When the anda turned the corner, gently swaying as it bearers marched forward, a funeral dirge  and the rattle of the light-producing generator replaced the laughter. It was extravagantly vibrant and joyfully melodramatic, a uniquely Latin American fusion of pomp and penance.

It’s been a long time since I was an altar girl. Now I am an undisciplined Quaker: my spiritual searchings unfold on wooden benches in plain gray rooms. Quakers don’t really quake: we sit and wait and occasionally fall asleep and hope we’ll be moved when we wake up. Seemingly, nothing could be so different from an Easter procession in Guatemala. But when the andas were replaced with souvenir vendors and garbage trucks, I felt (almost) the same way I feel after an hour spent in meditation. Because the divine exists in both spectacle and silence: God is both a mighty wind and a still small voice.

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