Ubaldo Sanchez and Jorge Cabrera

Guatamalan Sawdust Carpet

Master Artist
Ubaldo Sanchez
Apprentice
Jorge Cabrera
Folkway
Guatamalan Sawdust Carpet
Location
Arlington
Master artist Ubaldo Sanchez carefully places colored rice, beans, and sawdust into the stencil for an alfombra (photo by Ashley Twiggs/Virginia Folklife Program)
Master artist Ubaldo Sanchez carefully places colored rice, beans, and sawdust into the stencil for an alfombra (photo by Ashley Twiggs/Virginia Folklife Program) 

Alfombras de arracin (rice carpets) are created in Guatemalan cities and villages during Holy Week. Using dyed sawdust, rice, dried beans, and other vegetable materials, teams of artists create a carpet depicting scenes from the Passion and other religious images as part of Good Friday activities. Built in the hours before Good Friday services, these carpets are destroyed as the celebrants and congregation walk through them as they enter into the church, reflecting, it is surmised, the destruction of Christ’s “earthly body” just before the crucifixion. Each carpet is a unique creation, carefully developed by the artistic team during the days leading up to holy week. The images and techniques employed are drawn from a repertoire of traditional religious iconography and long-held community practices. The carpets can extend as far as 150 feet long and 12 feet wide. Ubaldo Sanchez, the principle artist of the alfombra-making group Alfo-Conce, lives in Arlington, Virginia, and learned the tradition from his older brother and community members before immigrating to the United States from Guatamala at age fourteen. Each year, Alfo-Conce creates an alfombra at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Falls Church, Virginia. They were invited by the Archbishop of Washington to create a celebratory carpet at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in honor of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to America in 2009. Ubaldo taught alfombra-making using dyed sawdust to a small group of apprentices from Alfo-Conce, led by Jorge Cabrera.