I think of this trip as tourism so I didn’t know whether there would be anything interesting to say in a blog (previous trips having been about doing nothing, an important topic).  Betty and I are in Santiago Atitlan where Semana Santa (Holy Week) is taking place, at the same time as Passover.  Santiago Atitlan is world-famous for its extreme, over-the-top pageantry during Semana Santa, and I wanted to be here to hear the marching bands.  Plus, we have three gigs in Guatemala, making this an international tour for Bellows & Squawk.  We played to a very enthusiastic audience last night in the Posada de Santiago, where we are staying in great elegance.


I can’t begin to describe the processions in this town.  They close the whole center of town to vehicles and many people spend many hours lining the streets with elaborate “carpets” made of colored sawdust.  Then the casket of Jesus, which must weigh tons, is carried by about 50 or 60 men slowly around the streets all night long, obliterating all the art.  Actually, there are two such caskets being marched around in competition with each other, because the mainstream Catholic Church is in conflict with the Cofradia guys (never mind the Evangelicals, another faction).  Here are a few pictures.






I’ll  recount a couple of tidbits of our adventures.  We rode in a tuk-tuk with Hebrew printing on the windshield and I asked the driver what it said and he said, “Yeshua ha-moshiach.”  (Jesus is the messiah).  Then he went into a long rap in Spanish of which I only understood snatches, but the gist was that Jesus was crucified on Thursday and resurrected on Sunday and they carry his casket around the streets in between, and he ended with “Shalom Aleichem.”  Another adventure, from which Betty and I have just returned, is that we started to hike up to a viewpoint overlooking the lake on one side and the coastal plain on the other.  An old guy asked us where we were going and told us to be careful of robbers and we ignored his warning and walked on until a guy carrying a machete and wearing a ski mask came out of the woods and tried to rob us, but I brandished my “REI Bicycles” water bottle and scared him off.  More precisely, he demanded money and I said no, and then just as I was about to give him my money, he ran away.  A short while later, a police pickup truck came by and they gave us a ride up to the viewpoint and another guy gave us a ride back to our hotel in the back of his pickup truck, along with one of his daughters and another guy who was carrying a load of firewood, and that guy’s dog.  So it was a short hike.  Betty has commented that I am exposing her to new experiences.


A word about the bands. I’ve written before about the San Lucas band, and I came here to hear that unique sound, but it appears that those days are gone.  There is a new generation of musicians who play almost as badly as the old San Lucas band, but they are reading sheet music and playing recognizable melodies.  We did, however, notice that the tuba player always played the same note, regardless of the changes of harmony, and he played it loud and long, once per measure.  You’ve got to admire the stamina of a tuba player who can do that for 12 hours straight as they march slowly behind the casket of Christ.  Semana Santa isn’t over yet and we may yet hear something more exotic in a Cofradia.  Meanwhile, Betty has made several recordings of the bands on her smart phone.  If we have arrived too late in history to hear the “San Lucas” sound, we’re having a great time anyway.  After all, this trip is tourism, besides being the first international tour of Bellows & Squawk.