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Holy week

Holy week (between March and April)

Photography by MARCO CLARO

Reading Time: 3 minutes

This week is usually celebrated between the last days of March and the first of April of each year, it is very important for most Mexican Catholics, not only because the children go on vacation on those days, but because a series is carried out religious activities involving the whole family.

We know that these celebrations, as well as others with a religious theme, arise 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 Viceregal period we find descriptions of these festivals dating from 1582 where the importance and solemnity with which the pilgrimages were carried out are noted, and how they were accompanied by three individuals dressed in black, who played from time to time three great trumpets out of tune. Among these descriptions stands out that of Maundy Thursday in 1609, referred to by Torquemada, where he tells us that more than twenty thousand Indians, including more than three thousand penitents, left the chapel of San Jose de los Naturales in procession.

At present, 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 among indigenous groups, 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 is reached to the transgression of the norms as happens with the Raramuris in the Sierra Tarahumara, where the Pharisees break the sexual taboos of their own culture in complicity with Judas who is characterized by his “sexual activity”.

Very similar happens among the Coras in Nayarit, where it is also the Pharisees who transgress the norm through sexual games, fights, dances, etc. The Yaquis and the Mayos of the center and south of the state of Sonora are the only ones who celebrate the entire Lent, thus beginning their rituals from Ash Wednesday to Easter, which makes it one of the most current celebrations among the ethnicities of the country.

But all these elements have a sequence and a logical relationship according to their culture. The custom of pilgrimages, music, dance and other expressions of a culturally constructed space still prevail. Even when modernity has caused some rites to have yielded to other customs, the worldview and mythology of the indigenous people influence their daily life, to the extent that these ancestral visions have marked their own development territories.

In Mexico, Holy Week and its traditions go beyond the processions and the purple colored Chinese paper (emblematic of the Catholic Church during these dates) that adorns the altars placed in a large number of houses and streets, it is a festive period at the national level, in which school and work activities are suspended to commemorate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Mexico is a country faithful to its Catholic tradition, it has managed to remain through its rites and customs as a result of the syncretism of its indigenous roots and its Spanish influence. Some of the places where Mexico is living most intensely and emotionally this week 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 has international fame.

This devotion in Mexico began during the Colony with the installation of an altar in houses and churches on the sixth Friday of Lent that precedes Holy Week and is followed by the Friday of Dolores (Friday before Easter), when the pain that the Virgin Mary suffered for the death of her son. Palm Sunday is commemorated the day that Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem and was proclaimed by his people as King of Israel. On Holy Thursday the last supper is remembered. Good Friday, this day the death of Jesus is remembered at 3 in the afternoon. This day it is customary to pray the Way of the Cross in churches. On Holy Saturday at night the New Fire is commemorated, there is a small procession full of light that begins and ends in the Oratory to end with Easter or Resurrection Sunday.

Although the celebrations vary according to the customs of each region, there are certain general aspects that are similar throughout the country. In some places, Easter traditions are especially colorful and spectacular, both because of the fervor with which the people perform them and because of the folkloric elements that adorn them. In the majority there are processions with images of Christ, or theatrical representations of the passion.