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Holy Week Cora, a festival full of color and mysticism

Holy Week Cora, a festival full of color and mysticism

Photo by Cultura Colectiva

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Holy Week Cora or “La Judea” is a cultural practice carried out by this indigenous group and is closely related to the agricultural cycle of corn cultivation, with the advent of the rainy cycle, with the renewal of vegetation, and the rebirth of life; It is interesting due to the union of several elements: cultural syncretism, the relationship with the gods and with the agricultural cycle, for its artistic expression (body painting, costumes, music and dance), in addition to the fact that it constitutes the best form of reproduction of the identity of this town.

This cultural practice is carried out in the Cora Alta region of Santa Teresa, Dolores, Mesa del Nayar, San Francisco and Jesus Maria; as well as from Cora Baja such as San Juan Corapan, Presidio de los Reyes, Mojocuautla, Rosarito, San Juan Bautista, San Blasito, Huaynamota, in the state of Nayarit.

During Holy Week Cora, the indigenous worldview is clearly observed, which considers life as a cycle and the world as a place made of dualities, where the forces of evil are present and fight against the forces of good. This vision of duality as complementary “opposites” make up a complex cosmogonic unity, which allows otherness, or the “other”, to have a place in the indigenous festival and is even necessary to maintain stability, identity, unity; that is, it is necessary for the very existence of the community.

Indeed, in the Cora indigenous communities located in the mountainous areas of western Mexico, particularly in the state of Nayarit, the celebrations recall the events related to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and are part of an inversion ritual where, for After eight days, the civil authorities hand over control of time, space and the public life of the communities to the ceremonial group of centurions.

Apparently this staging of Catholic Holy Week replaces the ancestral practice of the Cora of the “mitote guerrero”, which was forbidden to them since they were conquered. In the narration of Fray Alonso Ponce during his stay in the provinces of New Spain in 1587, a fact is mentioned that could be the antecedent of the tradition of the “Erases” (the Jews of Holy Week) since it describes “a dance of blacks” that possibly executed painted Indians who danced to the sound of a drum and a flute.

Holy Week Cora de Santa Teresa faithfully adheres to this cultural pattern; During eight days the indigenous people usually transform into different characters (Jews or “erased”, Pharisees, Moors, black and white demons, doubles of Christ, etc.) to carry out innumerable rites, processions, cosmic fights and day and night ceremonies; they execute this following a very precise temporal order. It is a period of liberation from Evil in which cosmic harmony is endangered.

Each participant designs their own paint and outfit so no two are alike. Participants paint or “erase” their bodies with paints made from burnt and crushed corn (for the color black), and mud, for hair. There are also dyes based on colored anilines mixed with honey and water. The celebration takes place from Wednesday to Saturday of Holy Week. During this time, the civil authorities cede control of the community to a group of centurions. On Wednesday night, the “black Jews” and the “Romans”, who represent the rising evil, begin to dance. They search, all day long, for Christ to kill him. In the afternoon, another group of Jews, who represent the apostles, paint themselves white.

It is around four in the afternoon that black and white Jews go through the whole town until they reach the ceremonial center. Once there, the black Jews can break their fast, while the whites dance into the night to earn their food. When it gets dark and the white Jews have eaten, they go home, but the black Jews continue to dance; around midnight, they go in search of corn to a plantation.

In general, they leave in the early hours of the next day (between twelve and one) and return at six in the morning carrying sacks of corn that is “stolen” (donated by the owner of the land in exchange for blessings on their land). harvest) They call all this cosmic fight or fight in the reality of the nayeri. It is supposed that on Wednesday they leave our reality and enter the nayeri reality, fighting with good and evil, represented with the colors they use to paint themselves; the processions are made against the clock and god is a badger, a drum and a flute.

On Glory Saturday the situation is reversed. Christ is resurrected, the demons self-destruct and return to the river, from where they had left at the beginning of the ceremony. The restitution of powers to civil authorities. Finally, peace and balance return to the town once the last procession to the Catholic temple is carried out, which is presided over by Christ, the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, as well as the Pharisees, the Jews, the musicians and the community people.

The Cora people, during this period, get involved as a whole (children, youth, adults, women, the elderly), constituting themselves as an element of community cohesion. It is a cultural expression of exceptional value for its permanence through time, for its cultural syncretism, for its impressive symbolic richness (in the characters, the use of space and the relationship with the gods and with the agricultural cycle), for its symbolic artistic expression (in body paintings, masks, music, dances) and finally because it is the fundamental celebration in the reproduction of the identity of the Cora people.