Alfombras (Carpets) in Antigua Guatemala


In Antigua during the Easter Season, called Semana Santa or "Holy Week", the residents make "carpets", called alfombras, out of colored sawdust, flowers, and imagination for the processionals, called posadas, to walk on.

A Sawdust "Carpet"

(left)
The Beginning


Four boards in a rectangle mark the edges of the area to be carpeted. The area is filled in with a thick layer of damp sawdust to level the surface, because the streets are quite uneven (see foreground). Wider boards and cinderblocks are used to make a movable scaffold so the "artist" can access the whole area. The area is covered with a thin layer of colored sawdust, if desired, to be the background color. The colored sawdust is shaken over the carpet area from a wooden box with a fine mesh bottom. Helpers stand by to supply more colored sawdust, move the scaffold, and mist the area with water as necessary.

(below)
Stencils may be used to create designs in colored sawdust on top of the background color.
(right)
A completed sawdust "carpet", surrounded by fruit and vegetables, in the courtyard of an Antigua hotel.

This "carpet" was not based on a thick enough layer of sawdust to prevent the outlines of the paving stones from showing through.


 
 
A Floral "Carpet"

Floral "carpets" can have sawdust bases, but it is more usual for the base to be of pine needles.

(left)
The red crosses are made of eggs. The insides are blown out, the eggs are replaced in their cartons, and eggs and cartons are spray painted red.
(below)
Another "carpet" made completely of pine needles, flowers, and flower petals. Details of the "carpet" are shown below, left.
The "carpet" above is a combination of floral and sawdust on a pine needle base.
The bags in the foreground hold colored sawdust. The top edge of a cardboard stencil may also be seen in the foreground.