From 20th – 27th March 2017, the seven countries of Central America will be awash with colourful processions, street parties and festivities in celebration of the famous 'Semana Santa' or Easter Week. Easter in Central America bears similarities to the religious festivals held in Spain that were carried over to the region over 500 years ago. However, celebrations in each country are underpinned by their own indigenous influences and make visiting Central America during Semana Santa an enriching experience.
'Semana Santa' in Antigua Guatemala
The colonial city of Antigua Guatemala hosts one of the most vibrant Semana Santa celebrations in Central America. The event begins on the first day of Lent with mile long processions made up of floats and statues bearing the image of Christ and carried by locals wearing traditional purple robes winding their way through the cobble stoned streets. In the lead up to Semana Santa, locals and visitors come together to take part in the beloved tradition of making 'Alfombras' (colourful carpets that adorn the streets) made from saw-dust, flowers, fruit and other materials. Whilst Semana Santa in Antigua Guatemala is a reflection of the religious fervour brought from Spain 500 years ago, the carpet designs are overshadowed with Mayan influences as they are decorated with scenes from nature and distinctive Mayan symbols.
'Viacrucis Acuatico' on Lake Nicaragua
On 10 April 2017, Nicaraguans celebrate the 'Viacrucis Acuatico', an Easter festival that can only be found in Nicaragua. The 'Viacrucis Acuatico' features a procession of 40 boats that sail around the islands of Granada on Lake Nicaragua – the largest lake in Central America. Islanders decorate boats with flowers and images of Jesus and go from island to island to receive symbolic offerings. Every year, hundreds of tourists travel to Lake Nicaragua to celebrate Semana Santa and to admire this exceptional procession.
'The Arbol Granadillo' in Panama
Every year, Panamanians from the community of the River of Jesus in the Province of Veraguas celebrate Semana Santa by travelling to 'La Trinidad' on the west coast of Panama to pay a visit to the 'Arbol Granadillo'. The 'Arbol Granadillo', a flowering tree native to Central America, only blooms once a year during Easter Week which has lead locals to believe that it is sacred and has healing powers. Travellers from across the world come to the tree to place flowers and candles and pray for their health.
The Holy Saturday Cross Country Cycle Race in Belize
For over 80 years, Belize has celebrated the Holy Saturday Cross Country Cycle Race over Easter weekend. Every year, over 100 amateur cyclists take part in the 140 mile race which stretches from Belize City to San Ignacio-Santa Elena in the West, and returns to Belize City. The first race was held in 1928 to encourage Belizeans to brave the bumpy roads and to cycle from village to village. The best way to experience the Holy Saturday Cross Country Cycling race is to line up early for the best spots at the start and finishing line where the excitement of the race culminates.