The Fleeting Beauty of Guatemala’s Street Alfombras

by - Friday, February 16, 2018

Our photo crew has been fortunate enough to shoot Sundance models in many inspiring locations over the years. But our first-ever visit to Guatemala for the Spring Catalog was truly special. Here in the delightful mountain town of Antigua, we were treated to the local tradition of colorfully decorated alfombras.

Made primarily of pigmented sawdust and flowers on a sand base, these special alfombras (Spanish for carpet) are created on Sundays throughout the Easter season, but they culminate the day before Good Friday. Each is made by families or local businesses – most importantly, with the help of children – as Holy Week offerings to Jesus. This tradition has been passed down for hundreds of years in towns across Guatemala and Honduras.

Alfombra designs are imagined months in advance and most require elaborate stencils, some new and others passed down from generation to generation. Hours go into the making of each “carpet,” which are created right on the cobblestoned streets of Antigua. Multifamily ones may stretch for entire blocks, with some reportedly even up to a mile in length! Throughout their construction, regular spraying from water bottles protects the fragile sawdust designs from wind.

Though spectacular, these are sacrificial works of art not intended to last long. In fact, street alfombras are designed to be literally crushed by the Holy Week processionals from the churches in the area. What may take 24 painstaking hours to create is destroyed in three minutes!

Thankfully, the processionals are immediately followed by cleaning crews that sweep up all the messy sawdust and crushed flowers (fruits and other recyclable materials may also be used). Hours later, there is virtually no sign they ever existed.

So as you shop our Spring Catalog, be sure to check out the beautiful alfombras shown in the background of many of the photographs.

Finally, our many thanks go to the people of Antigua for sharing their beautiful tradition with us.

Discover our Spring collection here.

You May Also Like