It’s Semana Santa, a week of holidays which for many in the Catholic world is more significant than Christmas. This was what I was taught during my Catholic tutoring a few years back, that it was more important to attend Mass to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus rather than the birth of him.
What do Hondurans think, though? In Honduras, like the rest of the world, Christmas seems more commercialized by the year. Gifts are exchanged and consumerism seems to be going through the roof, especially in the seven years I’ve been here. Shops begin selling Santa stuff as early as September, and it’s even more bizarre to see shopping centres bringing in Christmas trees and snow displays, candy sticks and Santa grottos, especially being in a tropical country (think of the gullible eejit in the Santa outfit while the sun sits high at 25°C). There are Masses and Christmas nativities, but it seems less about religion and more gringo. Although all Hondurans probably hold nacatamales above all else at Christmas. That and family.
Semana Santa seems to be becoming just as commercialised, especially for younger generations. It’s not a critique; just an observation. It’s a time families hit the beaches, especially youngsters who flock to the north coast or the Bay Islands. Don’t get me wrong….I’m not a party pooper. I too have headed to Utila in the past (pretty much the Ibiza of Honduras), and I have had more than my fair share of units of alcohol this week, as well. The sun’s out and smiles are on faces; no complaints on my part.
However, while everyone is at the beach, Tegucigalpa becomes Heaven (a part from the heat). Everyone’s chilled, there’s the sound of a party coming from somewhere, as well as a whiff of a barbeque, and there’s no traffic on the streets; therefore, no road rage or waiting behind lorries in the heat. You can actually get to places within minutes, rather than half-hours or hours. Malls are empty and shops don’t have queues. In short, Tegucigalpa is a closed shop, it’s when I like the city most.
Another element I like during Semana Santa are the alfombras. They are found in most the cities throughout Honduras, as well as other places in Central America, although they’re most famous in Comayagua; the former Honduran capital (as well as a city in Guatemala, but I will leave that to Nick “El Chapine” Rogers to waffle on about). Alfombras translates as carpets, and they consist of hand-drawn symbols from the Bible and the Catholic Church which relate to the death and resurrection of Christ. They are laid down on Good Friday, and the symbols are then coated carefully in different coloured sands and sawdust, using stencils and water to help it remain in place (only the Lord knows what happens if it happens to be a rainy or windy day). In Tegucigalpa it aligns Calle Cervantes towards the more bohemian end, where you can sometimes observe interesting street art upon the walls, screaming whatever political crisis happening is at that moment. Then later in the day, the Procession passes over the alfombras, pretty much ruining wonderful works of art. But it’s all in the name of religion….
I passed through today and it never fails to impress me, despite me being burned to toast while conducting my admiring.
However, I must end this post on a sad note, unfortunately highlighting a more negative aspect of Honduras which has hit the headlines in the last couple of days. I try not to publish such things, as the country already receives a lot of unbalanced publicity (yes there are big social problems, but yes there are also millions of wonderful people, beaches and soups).
During week, a medical student named Silvia Vanessa Izaguirre was violated and murdered on a bus, so I believe, en route to Trujillo in the north of the country. I don’t know much more, nor do I need to say more. I didn’t know her either, although she must have been near the end of her studies, having recently completed her work practice at a hospital in Danlí. She was 26 years old when she died.
I don’t know nor understand the grief and anger that her loved ones must be feeling at this moment. It could have been any one of us, and now we have lost a life of a young woman who was dedicating her life to saving the lives of others. I only hope she rests in peace, and those responsible are brought to justice.