Coincidentally, I’ve spent parts of the past three Easter seasons in either Mexico or Guatemala. Compared to the sedate Easters of my childhood or the flurries of Peeps and candy eggs I see now at every turn, what I’ve experienced in Latin America is dramatic, moving, sometimes startling. Let me share.
A church in a small town in the Chiapas highlands, painted like a vast pastel confection. Inside, expanses of flickering candles are stuck to the floor, bare of everything except a scattering of fresh pine needles. The altar is a mass of flowers. Off to one side, a Maya shaman conducts a healing ceremony for a family. In the opposite corner, a chicken is sacrificed. The saints, wearing layers of handwoven huipils, look on. Here’s another poultry story. We’re in Cobán, Guatemala. The cathedral is bustling with activity: candles being lit, prayers offered, saint effigies prepared for processions. In one corner, in a protected area, a rooster is tethered. Worshipers gather around, waiting for the rooster to crow three times, praying. The biblical reference is clear, the local dramatization visceral.
On the opposite side of the country, in Nebaj on Palm Sunday, women stream down the street from the church at dawn. The rising sun catches the lace veils they wear under the headcloths woven in traditional Nebaj style. The sense of community is strong, expressed in their clothing, their reverence, and the palm fronds they carry.
A week later, in Rabinal, the streets are blanketed with vivid carpets of flowers, grass, pine needles, and colored sawdust, laid out in intricate patterns to mimic traditional carpets. They will be trodden on throughout the day and night on Good Friday by brass bands and endless processions carrying religious figures. These vignettes aren’t related to the books we were shooting photographs for, books about traditional textiles and the people who make them. And yet they are. In Latin America, as in so many traditional cultures, textiles are inseparable from other aspects of culture. I guess that’s true here as well (as I sit here in my jeans). —Linda Ligon