The 2017 Easter Season in Mexico wrapped up Sunday April 23. TYT columnist Allan Wall takes a look at implications of this important two-week celebration.
Easter Sunday of 2017 was celebrated worldwide by all branches of Christendom on April 16th. In Mexico, the Easter season brings with it a wide variety of traditional regional observances which are important religiously, culturally, socially and even economically.
The crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ are foundational to the Christian faith. That’s why the major branches of Christendom (Roman Catholic, Protestant and the Eastern Churches) memorialize – in various ways – the death, burial and resurrection of Christ each spring.
Mexico has a variety of traditional Easter customs, most deriving from Spain, with a diversity of traditions linked to particular regions and cities.
The Easter season begins on Miércoles de Ceniza (Ash Wednesday) and continues through Cuaresma (Lent), the 40-day period until Semana Santa (Holy Week).
Semana Santa (Holy Week) begins on Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday), the day of Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. The Last Supper was held on Jueves Santo (Maundy Thursday). Viernes Santo (Good Friday) commemorates the day of Christ’s crucifixion. Sábado de Gloria (Holy Saturday) is the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Domingo de Resurrección (Easter Sunday) celebrates the Resurrection of Christ.
Mexican schoolchildren get two weeks of vacation from classes, the week before Easter and the week after. I remember when I lived in Mexico and was teaching English in school, that two-week vacation was a good time to travel.
Various folk customs are observed throughout Mexico during Holy Week. These are deeply-rooted religious, cultural and social practices that vary from place to place. They are folk expressions which don’t necessarily depend upon the Catholic hierarchy to be carried out from year to year, they are longstanding traditions.
One such custom is the Quema de Judas (Burning of Judas), which was brought from Spain and is popular in parts of Mexico.
An effigy, with fireworks inside, is set on fire and publicly burnt. It represents Judas Iscariot and it also represents an unpopular contemporary figure, usually a politician. Thus, a traditional folk religious custom is combined with political expression.
This year, guess who was burned in effigy in Mexico on Sábado de Gloria in various parts of Mexico? Yes, that’s right. It was Donald Trump.
During Holy Week various passion plays, dramatic reenactments of the crucifixion of Christ and the life of Christ are held in Mexico.
The most famous reenactment is held in the Mexico City borough of Iztapalapa. It began in 1843 after Iztapalapa suffered a cholera outbreak and has been held ever since except for a brief suspension during the Mexican Revolution in the early 1900s.
The Iztapalapa Passion Play is a true community endeavor, organized and carried out annually by the locals. It begins on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter Sunday, with five days of public presentations. This year, nearly two million spectators attended.
All of the pageant’s actors must have been born in Iztapalapa. Whoever portrays Christ is selected on the basis of both good moral character and physical strength. The actor wears an actual crown of thorns, is flogged, and bears a 200-pound cross through the streets before being “crucified” (tied to the cross, not nailed).
The Iztapalapa Passion Play is truly a sight to behold. When a reporter asked a local man about it one year, he replied. “We pray, we cry, as if all this is real. We know it is not. Yet, maybe we come because we are all sinners? Maybe somehow it helps us make fewer sins in our lives…. Maybe, just maybe, people are better because of it.”
Iztapalapa is the biggest and most famous such Mexican Passion Play. There are many other observances throughout the country. Though smaller, they are just as important to their local communities as that of Iztapalapa.
Sadly, one such observance in Tancitaro, in the state of Michoacan, ended in tragedy. A 23-year old man was portraying Judas Iscariot, who hanged himself. Somehow, the actor lost his balance, slipped off a platform he was standing on and was accidentally strangled.
As described in Britain’s Daily Mail, “According to witnesses, the young man had put a rope around his neck and then around a tree to simulate being hung. But he slipped off his support and was left dangling in thin air.”
The audience didn’t realize it at first, until it was noticed that he wasn’t breathing. The young man was taken in an ambulance to a nearby clinic but it was too late, he had died. It was an unexpected tragedy for the young man, his family, the audience and the community.
By Allan Wall for TYT
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