During the Spanish colonial period, cofradías or religious brotherhoods were organized in Guatemala by priests who came to Central America from Spain to evangelize the Indigenous inhabitants. Four cofradías were founded among those living in the Spanish-ruled Kingdom of Guatemala; these were responsible for the upkeep, artistic decoration, and maintenance of the kingdom’s chapels.
An hermandad is another type of brotherhood association; it’s composed of Catholic parishioners who join together to perform religious works and whose membership is based on the veneration of a particular religious statue (imagen) or on membership in a particular parish church.
These brotherhoods – both cofradías and hermandades – work with parish churches and conduct activities that allow them to raise funds in order to carry out activities related to the preservation of the church’s traditions and celebrations.
During Lent and Holy Week, the planning and celebrating of holy vigils, processions, and concerts of seasonal music is done by the church’s hermandad and the cofradía. These brotherhoods also keep parishioners and others informed about processions, holy vigils, and other events, as well as all the attendant details and planning related to those celebrations.
Members of the hermandad ensure that each activity is conducted with order and respect for both the church and the imágenes that are venerated there. In addition, members of the brotherhoods, along with church authorities, control the order of the processions’ elements, the bands and the dirges they play, the processional routes, and other details.
Brotherhood members must at all times be worthy representatives of the church and its principles and have love and respect for the imagen they venerate.
Written by: Sofía Letona
Photos by: Raul Armas