Sawdust carpets cushion Nicaragua’s streets on Good Friday

Around 250 people gather for the Viacrucis procession on Good Friday in Boaco.

By Mariah Quintanilla

Boaco, Nicaragua – Nicaraguans marched across colorful sawdust carpets alongside their savior in the final carrying of the crosses Friday during the Catholic Holy Week.

The bright, fluffy carpets lined the lower main street of Boaco, a municipality in central Nicaragua with the slogan, “The city of two floors.” The “bleeding” crosses, orange suns, hearts, flowers and birds each represented the stations of the Viacrucis procession, signifying Jesus’ final walk toward crucifixion.

The procession began at 5 a.m. on Good Friday, and came to a climax a few hours later as hundreds of people reached three wooden crosses perched at the top of the main street’s steep incline.  About 250 Boacans shuffled behind local parishioners to the beat of slow drums and trumpets, as they hoisted a life-sized statue of Jesus from carpet to carpet. Four women carried a smaller statue of the Virgin Mary nearby. The parishioners, dressed in purple smocks, laid the statue on each of about eight sawdust carpets. The priest then said a prayer over loud speakers, while the people repeated his words in unison.

Miriam Espinoza and her two small children watched the procession as it passed by her doorway. “The procession signifies the Lord’s Passover, and that he wants us to follow him, so that we be nearer to him with fasting and prayer” she said.

Designing sawdust carpets is a common tradition around the world during Good Friday, originating in Germany and later adopted by Catholics in Central America. The night of before Good Friday, a smaller group of dedicated Boacans walked somberly beside a blindfolded Jesus statue dressed in white in the “Procession del Silencio,” or the procession of silence. Once this procession concluded, the people of the town created symbolic pictures from green, red and orange sawdust they laid by hand until 3 a.m.

The priest who lead Friday’s procession in Boaco, Monsignor Leonardo Rodríguez, expressed his reverence for the congregation’s dedication to their faith in an interview with the Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa. “I want to thank the people who have taken pains to make these carpets, which demonstrates the commitment our faithful have to our Lord Jesus Christ,” he said.

It was his first time as priest to lead the procession over the carpeted streets. “It is a new experience for me to see carpets in this city, very beautiful.  We hope that this art is maintained and disseminated by the people who make them,” he added.

The procession concluded at Parroqia Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro, the larger and more modern of two churches in Boaco. By late afternoon, the streets were swept clean, without a trace of the vibrant mats that cushioned the holy figure just hours before.

Photo at top:  About 250 Boacans shuffled behind local parishioners to the beat of slow drums and trumpets, as they hoisted a life-sized statue of Jesus from sawdust carpet to carpet. (Mariah Quintanilla/MEDILL)