Quiché (Guatemala), Apr 2 (EFE) .- After a year of absence due to the coronavirus, a group of 15 men completed this Friday crawling, and with thorns on their body, a route of approximately five kilometers to ask forgiveness for their sins in a town in northwestern Guatemala

The five kilometers of pain and penance for Catholics in Guatemala

EFE Agency

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FOLLOWING

The local tradition of the “gateadores”, suspended in 2020 by the covid-19, resumed its activity as every Good Friday in the municipality of San Andrés Sajcabajá, in the department of Quiché, 200 kilometers northwest of Guatemala City.

In a gloomy atmosphere, faithful to the Catholic festivities of Holy Week, the 15 “gateadores” they completed the journey in approximately three hours as penance for their sins and also to give divine thanks.

The Catholic faithful, whose ages range between 18 and 40, as confirmed by the organization to Efe, decide of their own free will to carry out the penance for seven consecutive years.

The tradition was born with the Spanish conquest and passes almost entirely in silence, with men in penance muttering to themselves in various segments of the journey.

WITH LESS COMPANIONS AND SPECTATORS

Prior to the spread of covid-19, more than 600 people came to witness the penance of the “gateadores”, who advance barefoot and on their knees with thorns on their backs all the way.

This Friday, after a year of pandemic and with Guatemala as the country with the highest number of deaths from the disease in Central America, around 300 people witnessed the penance, most of them outside their homes.

The “gateadores” They left the main church of San Andrés Sajcabajá at 11.00 local time (17.00 GMT), going down the steps of the Catholic temple as tradition dictates, and finished their penance three hours later.

The journey was also accompanied by five other men who completed the five kilometers with crosses full of thorns on their backs, equally in penance under anonymity and identically with half covered faces.

The tradition has been diminishing with the passage of time, since according to the local authorities years ago the participants numbered by the dozen. And it is that the penance also takes as a sacrifice 40 previous days without seeing the family, with fasting and other restrictions.

According to local media polls, 45 percent of Guatemalans profess the Catholic religion and 42 are Protestant, while 11 percent declare themselves agnostic or atheist and two percent practice other religions.

The way of the “gateadores” it also attracts dozens of foreign tourists every year. However, the expansion of the pandemic this year also reduced the number of visitors to Guatemala and also to the mostly indigenous department of Quiché.

Only in 2019 the Central American country received almost 2.6 million tourists, but the number fell in 2020 due to the pandemic by 75%, according to official records.

Regardless of this, “gateadores” They will return in 2022, as some of them have not yet completed the seven years of penance that they initially promised in search of divine forgiveness, out of gratitude and as a reflection of their lives.

Esteban Biba

(c) EFE Agency

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