Semana Santa

Few medieval traditions are as rejoiced and lively as Semana Santa (Holy Week - from Palm Sunday to Easter Saturday) and Pascua (Easter Sunday to the following Saturday.) Often combined as one long, single celebration, the two week highlight of the Christian calendar is a time for many faith abiding Mexicans to take a secular holiday. Most community-spirited families choose to stay put, indulging and participating in the re-enactments of the “Passion Play” in the streets. Parades often include a six-part theatrical presentation, extending from the night of the Last Supper, to Christ's Crucifixion and Resurrection.

Good Friday in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, has long been noted as a zealous celebration, with spectacular parades and rites of ceremony dating back to the 1800's. It was not until the 1960's that the full extent of the town's fervent revelry became apparent, with photos emerging of spectacular parades and altars lining roadways for the celebration of “Our Lady of Sorrows” - a full week before Semana Santa. Our Lady of Sorrows culminates with Good Friday, in a procession that sees the majority of the town's population take to the streets. A masterpiece of 17th Century skill (by Gregorio Fernandez), the statue “El Señor Atardo de la Columna” (Lord At The Pillar) plays the central part in a parade from Voladollid, to the pseudo-Gothic Church of St. Michael the Archangel.

Located upon the Eastern flank of Mexico City, the thriving borough of Iztapalapa represents the most populous area of the Distrito Federal since the 1970's. Lesser known for its stunning colonial architecture and Monastery of Culhuacán, the borough of Iztapalapa holds esteem for the biggest spectator draw of Holy Week – the 150 year old Passion Play of Iztapalapa. Attracting over 1 million visitors to the town each year, the open air plays follow Christ's betrayal and journey from the Last Supper, to his Resurrection to Eternal life. Inspired by the tragedy of a cholera epidemic in 1833 (wiping out over 75% of the population), Passion of Iztapalapa is the venerated act of thanksgiving, involving every member of the borough's ever expanding community. The Passion Plays are a very real re-enactment of the last days of Christ, from his bearing of the Cross, to the whipping he endured en route to Crucifixion.

Deep in the heart of the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains (within Chihuahua State) lies an indigenous village known as Creel. Inhabited almost entirely by Tarahumara Indians, the town has only recently become noted for its Semana Santa celebrations, despite the tradition dating back almost 300 years. From the eve of Palm Sunday, to Easter Sunday itself, the citizens of Creel daub themselves with white paint (some completely) in a bid to purify themselves in likeness to Christ. Merging Catholic rites with traditional dance and flamboyant theatrical expression, this is a lively celebration of Semana Santa not to be missed!

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