Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Creating an Earthly Paradise: The Huertos of Guatemala and Nicaragua

Huerto, La Merced Church, Antigua, Guatemala
The Holy Week huertos of Antigua, Guatemala are true spectacles with a deep religious and communal significance.   They are created in churches in conjunction with velaciones, portrayals of scenes of Christ's passion and the beautiful sawdust carpets for which Antigua is famous.  (Please remember that all photos enlarge when clicked for better viewing details).

Huerto, La Merced Church, Antigua, Guatemala

The fruits and vegetables that go into creating the huerto, in English orchard or garden, are donated by church members and neighbors and often are later sold at a reduced price or given away to people who need them.

Huertos symbolize the abundance and redemption that come with the resurrection of Christ on Easter.  There is also some association with the idea of garden, since it was in the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus prayed during the unfolding of the events leading up to the crucifixion.

The huertos  of Nicaragua are quite different from the geometrical, elaborate ones seen in Guatemala, although the idea of plenty is present in the copious fruit and foodstuffs used to decorate them.   They are open-sided  enclosures constructed out of sticks and covered with palm fronds.  In some places they are filled with fruits and other types of food. The five photos below were taken in Diria and Diriomo, pueblos in the Masaya region outside of Granada.

Building a Huerto, Holy Wednesday,  Dioriomo, Nicaragua

Building a Huerto, Holy Wednesday, Diria Nicaragua

Building a huerto, Diria, Nicaragua

Huerto,  Holy Wednesday, Diria Nicaragua

Huerto, Holy Wednesday, Diria, Nicaragua

In Granada Nicaragua, the huertos were  somewhat different.  They, too, had stick frames covered with palm fronds, but their interiors were less elaborately decorated with foodstuffs. Instead, each was used as a shelter for a holy figure from the church. In some of the booths religious items were being sold- rosaries and small pieces of cloth that were rubbed on the figures and then were worn or carried by people to confer protection on them.

Huerto, Holy Wednesday night, Granada, Nicaragua

Huerto,  Holy Wednesday night, Granada, Nicaragua
Huerto, Holy Wednesday night, Granada Nicaragua
Huerto, Holy Wednesday night, Granada, Nicaragua

These huertos are built on Holy Wednesday and remain up the following day.  They  provide worshippers an opportunity to be close to the images, these figures of Jesus, Mary and others that are normally on display in a church or carried in procession.  The huertos  provide an environment of intimacy in which people can interact with these figures and receive the spiritual benefits of this.