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Holy Week, a manifestation of faith and the unity of a country

Holy Week, a manifestation of faith and the unity of a country

Photo by Cultura Colectiva

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We know that the Holy Week festivities, as well as others with religious themes, arose in the period of Evangelization by religious orders as a form of dramatization so that Catholic rituals could be better understood and assimilated by the indigenous population.

During the Viceroyalty, we find descriptions of Holy Week that date back to 1582 where the seriousness and solemnity with which the pilgrimages were carried out is noted, and how they were accompanied by three individuals in mourning who played from time to time three large trumpets out of tune. Among these descriptions, the one on Holy Thursday of 1609 stands out, referred to by Torquemada, where he tells us that more than twenty thousand Indians, among whom were more than three thousand penitents, left the chapel of San Jose de los Naturales in procession.

Currently, the celebration of Holy Week in Mexico has variations from one community to another in terms of representations and organization, however, it also maintains a series of constants. In the case of the celebration of Holy Week among the indigenous, there is a combination of elements where not only the Passion of Christ is remembered, but also the political-religious takeover of the American continent, the renewal of the land and in some cases , it comes to the transgression of the rules.

For the Raramuris in the Sierra Tarahumara, the Pharisees break the sexual taboos of their own culture in complicity with Judas who is characterized by his “sexual activity”; the festivities of Holy Week not only represent the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but also the eternal struggle between good and evil, they call it “nolirúache” (going around) and it marks a kind of new year according to their agricultural calendar, when to the rhythm of dances and drums they ask for the arrival of the rain. These celebrations originated after the arrival of the first Spanish missionaries in the mountains, who in an attempt to evangelize showed the Tarahumara some evangelical passages about the Greater Week.

Very similar happens among the Coras in Nayarit who have the habit of painting their bodies in colors. The Jews are a group of young people who, during the festivities, represent an army of nocturnal demons (of fertility), who go around half-naked with their bodies painted and carrying masks and wooden sabers as part of their attire. The Christ-Sun (fundamental character of this celebration) is personified in this region by the Nazarene Child, and the task of the Jews is to persecute him, this spectacular ceremony is still forbidden to people outside the community.

In Sonora and Sinaloa, the Mayo-Yoreme Indians recreate the Passion and Death of Jesus with total religious syncretism. The so-called Pharisees put on masks made of goat or pig skin and spend days singing and dancing, going into houses to beg. Meanwhile, Pilate, the chief who is on horseback, is giving orders to his Pharisees to collect money for the party. Then, on Glory Saturday, all the Pharisees turn good and burn their masks in a huge bonfire.

The Yaquis of Sonora celebrate a party that begins to open to the public, something previously prohibited. The Yaquis also make a dramatization of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus in which the participants are divided into pure and impure. It is a staging very similar to that of the Mayos carrying here the Pharisees masks that prevent them from speaking or using their right hand. They are sinners and they pay as such. In the period of Lent, it is the religious authorities who have the power to direct the community. On Good Friday the houses are closed and there is no music or any type of public activity that is not sad prayers in the Church as a sign of mourning.

The Mazatecos of San Pedro Ixcatlan, in the state of Oaxaca, used to hit trees on Glory Saturday so that they bear good fruit. “The festivities for the Mazatec indigenous are attached to traditions and customs amalgamated with Catholic beliefs and practices, invoking the same saints of the Catholic pantheon as the “owners” or spirits of things, places and animals. All religious festivals They are accompanied by dances, sporting events with teams from other towns, horse races or cockfights”, explains Rene Suaste, a University researcher.

Each of these elements adopted, fused, mixed, have a sequence and a logical relationship according to their culture. The custom of pilgrimages, music, dance and other expressions of a space culturally built by them still prevails. Even when modernity has caused some rites to give way to other customs, the worldview and mythology of the indigenous people influence their daily life, to the extent that said ancestral visions have marked their own territories of development.

Mexico is a country faithful to its Catholic tradition, which has managed to remain through its rites and customs resulting from the syncretism of its indigenous roots and its Spanish influence. Some of the places where Holy Week is lived more intensely and emotionally in Mexico are Patzcuaro and Uruapan in Michoacan, as well as in San Miguel de Allende, Taxco, San Luis Potosi and Queretaro. In Iztapalapa, within Mexico City, the celebration of the Via Crucis is internationally famous.

What happens during Holy Week in Mexico is much more than a set of colorful representations and pilgrimages, it is the manifestation of culture, faith and the unity of a country through its traditions. The family spirit, hope and hospitality of a people reach their maximum expression because they involve a large part of the Mexican territory.