Holy Week Traditions in Mexico

by Jim on 19 April 2007

We learned a lot this year about some things that go on during Holy Week here in Mexico.  Here are a few more pictures from the TV coverage here in Mexico.

Take for example these guys.  These were for sale all over Mexico – paper maché figures that represent Judas Iscariot (but look generally like devils.  In a tradition that is familiar to many other countries as well, the figures are purchased on Good Friday and then BLOWN UP the next day (or Sunday).  Kaboom.

Judas figures to be blown up on Saturday

I have a picture of these figures for sale in our photo gallery.

Another tradition is the Saturday morning water fight.  I think back in the day it had something to do with purification, but generally now it’s just a lot of water and no rules.  Ironically enough, not knowing about this tradition, I staged a little water fight in our yard for Hannah and Nathanael.  Funny considering my previous experience on March 21st.  Do I have a 6th sense for these things, or what?

Water fight in Mexico

Of course there’s a lot of ritual in the Roman Catholic Churches.

Bishop of Cuernavaca with statue of Jesus
Bishop of Cuernavaca and the figure of Jesus with the cross

Procession with Jesus figure
A procession carries the figure of Jesus through the streets of Cuernavaca

In Mexico, what is often called Easter weekend is a time for penance.  People will put themselves through some pretty uncomfortable things in order to try to have sins forgiven, to gain favour with God, to help pay for the sin of those who have gone before, or to gain miracles for themselves or their community.  This sometimes involves things like processions, crawling on your knees to the church, or walking barefoot on the cobblestone streets.  It’s often a public affair, but in some cases faces are covered.

Hooded man
A hooded man going through a ritual.
As you can see in the photo below, he is chained and goes barefoot.

Children prepare for a procession
Children prepare for a procession

The last few photos are a little more disturbing.  These next photos are, I believe, from Taxco.  In the TV logo below you can see what you’ll see in the following photos in real life.

Taxco TV logo

One of the more unusual forms of penance in Taxco involves carrying heavy stalks covered in thorns through the streets.  Done after a lot of preparation and the support of friends and family, these men walk in agony through the streets trying to purify themselves and their communities of sin.  The following two photos show the real thing.

Carying thorny stalks

A painful procession

More common throughout the world is the practice of whipping yourself ritually.  I purposely chose a "bloodless" picture, but normally after some time of whipping there are two large bloody patches on each person’s back.  The whipping alternates from side to side, and like the ritual above is incredibly painful.  I won’t say any more.

Ritual whipping

This all brings us back to the question – what is the cross of Christ really about?  What did His death and resurrection accomplish?  Many people today still don’t understand what it’s all about.  Some of those people are incredibly devoted, others ignore it all together.  And yet there are few (if any) questions more important.  Please pray for Mexico.

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