Sunday, September 15, 2013

Semana Santa alfombras, Ayacucho

One of the biggest religious festival in Peru is Semana Santa, and one of the most famous and biggest celebrations occur in Ayacucho.

During the Holy Week, the whole town of Ayacucho is abuzzed with activities and decked in colour. One of the predominant sights you will see is teams preparing their alfombras or Semana Santa carpets. These carpets cover pretty much most of the Plaza de Armas or central square, as well as many side cobbled streets and alleys. Made from sand, coloured sawdust, flowers etc, they are art masterpieces in every sense of the word. Intricate designs, outstanding colours, precise craftsmanship, I am truly impressed by these carpets. It is said that the design takes months to come up with, and is unique every year. But sadly, they don't last beyond 24 hours....


As part of the celebrations and ceremonies during the week, there will be daily processions where participants show their devotion and/or perform religious rites. These alfombras are actually constructed on the processional route/path. So these artful carpets get trampled on, shuffled through (especially those carrying big floats!), and essentially gets wiped out after each procession. And even if they are not, they would be, to make way for the next alfombra to be constructed. Depending on the size and complexity, some can take 12 hours or more, so I guess it would be some sort of a race to get it completed before the next coming procession.

There will be alot of other celebrations and ceremonies in Ayacucho, and as mentioned, Ayacucho hosts one of the biggest. So accommodations and transport should be booked in advance. We were there in the early part of the week and did not see many foreign tourists. However, come Good Friday to Easter Sunday, the entire town is packed with locals and foreign tourists alike. The tourist offices and visitor centres are supposed to have more information regarding the activities happening, but it seems that most are in Spanish only. Nevertheless, you can always find something happening somewhere!

While I am not a Catholic (nor any religion for the matter), I thoroughly enjoyed the sights and festivities in my 1 week in Ayacucho. Especially the beautiful, colourful Semana Santa alfombras.

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