Semana Santa 2011 (Easter Week)

Charlie and I witnessed, for a second time, the traditions practiced in Mexico for Semana Santa (Easter Week).  Two of the key events, which are carried out in numerous towns around Mexico, are the “Procession of Silence” and the “Burning of Judases”.

The traditional Procession of Silence originated in Spain around the thirteenth century. During this era, the Franciscan priests began practicing these processions, in which they inflicted physical punishment upon themselves and performed sacred acts representing the passion of Christ. In the sixteenth century, the ritual was brought to New Spain (Mexico) through the order of the Carmelites.  Now, every year, the silent procession is performed in Querétaro.

On Good Friday, the downtown streets of Querétaro take on an air of devotion. At 6:00pm, a parade of sorrowful mourners fills the square around the Temple of Santa Cruz, thus beginning the silent procession, where the faithful grieve the death of Jesus.  Soon, the surrounding streets are filled with men wearing cone-shaped hoods, carrying heavy wooden crosses and walking barefooted with metal chains dragging from their ankles.   All of these men dress in colorful robes (red, grey, white or blue) that denote their religious denominations.  The women, by contrast, are all dressed in black with black veils covering their faces and carrying candles.  The ONLY sound in the streets is the beat of the drums.  The mood of the crowds watching this procession is solemn and all viewers remain quiet, in honor of those showing their faith by carrying the heavy crosses.

By contrast, the Burning of the Judases is a more joyous event, which takes place annually in Querétaro on Easter Sunday evening.  It is celebrated with the explosion of papier-mâché Judas effigies with firecrackers. In the context of this festival, Judas not only refers to the apostle who betrayed Christ, but also to evil and corruption in general. There is a tradition in Mexico of using the Judases as a vehicle for social satire and political protest. For this reason, they were banned by those in power at various points in the country’s history.  This year, five different Judases were exploded in Querétaro – ones depicting the devil, alcoholism, violence, “alebrijas”, and a nuclear reactor in Japan.  In addition to the burning of the Judases, the event includes a local band playing lively music, stilt walkers amusing the crowds, and fireworks.  All in all, a carnival-like atmosphere with the crowds enjoying the merriment.

During our time here in Mexico, we have truly enjoyed learning about the varied traditions of this rich culture, with Semana Santa being only a part of Mexico´s cultural and religious mosaic.

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One Response to “Semana Santa 2011 (Easter Week)”

  1. Alan Says:

    Thanks for the write up and wonderful pictures. Very nice to see. The KKK-like outfits are a bit off-putting, but I’m sure their tradition goes back farther than in the US (I was going to say “ours” but really didn’t want to take ownership of that). Glad to know you’re well.

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