Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Passion of Holy Week in the Heart of Mexico

This time last year I spent the "Holy Week of Easter" in the Mexican central highland states of Guanajuato and Queretaro attending a photography workshop with National Geographic photographer Raul Touzon. Our assignment was to photograph the spectacle of Easter pageants and celebrations that take place here -- colorful festivities that are particularly unrivaled anywhere else in the world.

The colonial town of San Miguel Allende rises up out of the central plains of Mexico to more than 6000 feet above sea level. It is here that the festivities begin two weeks before the Sunday designated as Easter. For more than 400 years the faithful have come here during Holy Week to celebrate with an enduring devotion and unwavering faith that simply overwhelms the senses. What takes place here during Holy Week really transcends any personally-held beliefs and religious observations of Easter.

On the Wednesday before Easter little "angelitas" bedecked in feathered angel's wings, golden crowns and their bright, white confirmation dresses symbolically carry the body of Christ in the procession of San Juan de Dios. The emotion was palpable and moving -- and my favorite images were those that captured that motion and movement.

In the nearby puebla of Cadereyta, the procession of the 400 Christs, a great parade of Easter devotion symbolized by brightly colored papier-mache streamers attached to wooden poles carried by thousands of marchers, begins slowly ...trundling through the cobblestone streets of the village with an unfathomable solemnity and then ends in a rush of blazing color at the doors of the church.

The little village of Ixtla plays host to the Passion Play on Good Friday. In the sweltering heat and dust the tiny spot in the world is flooded with the faithful who have come from afar to bare witness to the reenactment of the crucifixion.

The little hilltop outside of Ixtla swells with both pilgrims and emotion. The hill is overwhelmed by the mounting fervor and the air seems to explode rapturously into the searing heat.

Embedded in the solemnity of the moment is always the celebratory feasts of colorful, festive Mexico.

The most famous procession in all of Mexico takes place Thursday afternoon In the city of Queretaro. In the Procession of Silence more than 2000 "penitentes" march the perimeter of the city....

...carrying heavy crosses carved out of mesquite wood and often dragging chains strapped to their ankles.

not a word is spoken -- the only sound heard is the rasping of breath as crosses are hoisted onto shoulders and the scrape of chains against the pavement as the penitentes begin their march.

Children also take part in these century-old traditions which have, over time, have absorbed some of the older indigenous celebrations of the area.

The processions of Holy Saturday belong to the local women - mothers and children filling the streets of San Miguel at dusk to accompany Mary to the grave of her son.

In the flicker of a single flame, the rapture and joy of faith and rebirth transcends generational divides.

I find it fascinating that many of these traditions here have been passed down over the centuries and incorporate age-old rites and symbolic gestures that predate Christianity. Regardless people across the world mark this time of year with celebrations to honor the return of the son/sun.

Happy Easter - Happy Spring


K8 said...

Happy Easter to you, too! Hope you are having some fun. xoxo K8

Crayons said...

Thank you for this marvelous post! I like the way you keep text to a minimum, just letting the photos tell the story. This passionate and literal interpretation of Christianity frightens me, but it is fascinating at the same time.

Mary said...

T.R., you took me away. Processions, children, smiles, silence, overwhelming reverence.

"...faithful who have come from afar to bare witness to the reenactment of the crucifixion."

I agree with Crayons. Your photos tell a great story but I do appreciate your narrative.


Happy Easter.


Anonymous said...

Their faith is abundant and unwavering. I walked in their shoes for a moment while reading this terrific post. It was reassuring to have such passion. You are the best!

Anonymous said...

You caught the true spirit of the Catholic celebratrion of Easter.

;o said...

Very good post. A succinct story in word and imagery that captures the faith and tradition of the region beautifully.

Cinestef said...

Oh my! That must have been beautiful to experience! Wish I were there!
Many hellos from faaar far away!!!

Doug Taron said...

Thanks for making it seem as though I was right there.

Lana Gramlich said...

Very intriguing. I love the photos--the action lines make it seem surreal/ghostly. Nice!

Julie Zickefoose said...

I share your love for images that blur with motion. I especially like the little girls in white, with only one in focus. These are captivating, Tim. I'm envious of such a literal faith. I guess I question things too much.

Lovely lovely post.

chanpheng said...

That's a very incredible photo documentary. It really gives meaning to Easter, through people re-living a cycle.

Debbie said...
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Debbie said...

Thanks for sharing your beautiful pictures. I love following your travels and reading your commentaries. I was wondering..did you ever connect with Pam H ? Take Care

PS Kern is an idiot.

Debbie said...

sorry about the deleted posts. I'm computer challenged

Dancin Fool said...

Wow! The effect you have used(what is that by the way?)is very atmospheric and made my head spin a little......mind it is early in the morning.....ok not that early but it's Saturday!

BigAssBelle said...

what a glorious post! and what a surprise to come here and find it while contemplating a move to the city of Guanajuato.

the images are beautiful and you have perfectly captured the people and the colors and the magic of mexico. what a glorious and festive celebration of the sun/son. thank you for this.

Jean Warner said...

Hi! I'm surfing and found a bird watching Okie Blogger; check it out:
Hope all is going smoothly.

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

Such beautiful images.


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