The Economics of the Holy Week

Holy Week Economics by Rudy Girón

As Semana Santa, the Holy Week before Easter, approaches, the historic colonial town of Antigua sees almost daily processions. These processions include music, colors… and most importantly floats… that don’t really float, but are heavy wooden depictions of the life of Christ. Because of how heavy these floats are, they often need to be carried by more than 60 men, women and/or children. The processions wind themselves through the cobblestone streets. And people pay for the honor to carry them.

One quirk to the payment, is that according to my friend Nelo, each person pays Q60 per turn. Each procession includes on average 60 turns and each float needs 80-100 carriers. So this adds up fast, about Q290,000 (US$38,000) per procession. So where does all this money go?
Almost one third goes to the band. I heard that the San Felipe Church processional Band charges Q150,000 (close to US$20,000) per procession and La Merced Church processional band about Q125,000. I imagine some of the money goes to the church who lends the saint figures for the processions. Some money goes to the organization, the creation of the scenes above the floats which are never the same and lastly for maintenance.

Literary Introspection Aside: Much of what I am today and the decisions I made that took me to La Antigua Guatemala were inspired or influenced in part by Milan Kundera’s writings. Through the reading of several of Milan Kundera‘s novels, especially Life is Elsewhere, Laughable Loves, The Farewell Party, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Immortality and Identity, I begun to question myself about life, lifestyles and what I wanted out of the day. Life is a jigsaw puzzle made up from moments (days) and where and with whom you spend those moments shapes the picture you see at the end. Honestly, I do not know if it is better to live in the ‘first world’ with a first-world salary, first-world commodities and such or to live here in the south or third world with all the complications and dangers that decision entails. I don’t know about the first/third world euphemisms either. However, I do know that a different life or lifestyle is possible outside the safety net. There are other ways to be human and to experience unusual traditions and celebrations. There is a huge difference between Spring Break, Easter, Holy Week and Semana Santa as we live it in La Antigua Guatemala for sure. To each its own. For the moment, I’m just happy to be able to take ordinary snapshots from my daily comings-and-goings and to be able to share them with YOU! I hope you enjoy them too!?

© 2010 – 2020, Rudy Giron. All rights reserved.

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