I was so glad to hear that Comayagua, Honduras was going to be one of the stops on our Central American tour. My youth group would make small sawdust carpets every year during Holy Week. One of the members went to Comayagua on a family vacation and brought back the idea. I was ecstatic to find out I was going to see the real thing.
Each year during Holy Week, the residents paint the street in colored sawdust along the religious processional route. Some people use colored beans and seeds in their designs, but for the most part they use sawdust. I wanted to get there early to see how it was done, but we could only come in on that Thursday evening. By then, most of the streets were already decorated.
As we settled into the hotel, the exceptionally pretty housekeeper told us to hurry up and get dressed so we could go see the reenactment of the Last Supper in the Parque la Libertad at 6:30 p.m. It was a nice experience. Afterwards, we went to eat our own supper because we were all hungry from the trip. While at dinner, the waiter, who recognized us as tourists, suggested we go to some street I’d never heard of and watch a man and his family make the last sawdust carpet. He told us this family starts working at 12:30 a.m. and finishes around 6:00 a.m. That’s exactly what I came to see, so I was definitely in! So I knew I’d have to take a nap if I was going to be there at 12:30 a.m., so after dinner I went to bed.
My alarm went off at 11:45 p.m. I couldn’t believe I’d slept so long, but I was excited to get out there and see how these famous carpets are made. The streets were practically empty. I’d heard of an overnight silent processional taking place but I didn’t see anyone along the route I was going. With the empty streets, I got out there at about 12:20 a.m.
There was a layer of tan-colored sawdust that covered the street with the outline of the finished product stenciled across the sawdust. The father saw me admiring the stencil and asked if I wanted to help. I got really excited and told him yes. He called for his daughter to come outside with the sketch of the outline he’d drawn on paper. His daughter came out, wiping her eyes, and handed me the paper. I saw the amazing color and the attention to detail and I was excited to help out.
The father gave me a section of the carpet to work on and gave me the drawing to go by. The section had very specific colors, so he gave me the bags of the colored sawdust that corresponded with the section. The family was very serious about their work, so they didn’t really talk. I got the occasional smile and nod, but not much conversation. I couldn’t hold my eyes open by about 4:30 a.m. I took a few pictures of the work I’d done and the almost completed project and went back to the hotel. Unfortunately, I slept through the actual Good Friday processional but I did get to a chance to help make this festival a success.
- Explain the tradition of sawdust carpets in Comayagua, Honduras.
- Take a look at the video and pictures of the carpets in Comayagua: http://www.laprensa.hn/honduras/regionales/654011-98/honduras-comayagua-hace-gala-de-sus-alfombras-de-aserr%C3%ADn Which one do you find most impressive?
- Does your family celebrate Good Friday? Do you know of any US traditions on or around Holy Week?