THE WEEK BEFORE EASTER SUNDAY, known as Holy Week or Semana Santa in Spanish, holds a large cultural significance in much of the Latin world. Two places that have prominent Semana Santas are Antigua, Guatemala and Quito, Ecuador.

Semana Santa in Antigua has many unique elements. During the week of festivities, residents make Alfombras, detailed carpets that consist of sawdust, flowers, pine needles, fruits and vegetables. The alfombras cover many of the streets in the center of Antigua and help define the route of the processions. Large floats, or Andas, are also important in the Guatemalan Holy Week. Each Anda has a specific meaning, often with figures of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, or other biblical scenes. The Andas can weigh up to 7,000 lbs. The larger ones require over fifty men to carry.

Nearly 250,000 people attend the Good Friday Procession in Quito, Ecuador. Many of the Catholics that participate in the procession are penitents and go to extreme lengths to show their devotion to their faith. Some carry heavy crosses with their feet chained. Some wrap their bodies in barbed wire or flagellate themselves with whips and stinging nettle.