Sunday, May 11, 2014

Holy Week in Taxco: the religious pageant

Cindy in a cafe overlooking Taxco's 18th century cathedral, built by a silver baron.
Cindy and I spent part of Holy Week in Taxco, a couple of hours south of Mexico City. To get to Taxco you have to drive along steep, winding roads that hug the mountain on one side and drop off on the other into a frightening abyss.

Taxco is a Unesco World Heritage site and is considered one of the country's "magic towns" because of its architecture and cultural attractions.

It has been a center of silver mining for five centuries, and there are lots of shops displaying handiwork by the silversmiths.

Lots of indigenous artisans bring their work into Taxco for the tourists.

Whenever you get outside of the big cities in Mexico, you become aware of the huge population of indigenous people who live in small towns where subsistence farming was once the main source of income.

In Taxco, some can work in the mines. Others produce crafts for the export and tourist trades. Many leave to find work in the big cities or in the United States.

The best way to get around Taxco's steep, narrow streets.
Taxco's taxi fleet.
Local crafts on sale on the street.

Taxco is known for its Holy Week processions. We saw them on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night and on Holy Saturday. There are religious fraternities and sororities whose members volunteer to undergo physical trials as penance for their sins or to seek divine help for family illness or some other petition. (2-minute video at the end of this post). 

Penitents flagellate themselves. There are little nails in the whips.
Some of the men carry a cross and stop every 10 minutes or so to kneel and flagellate themselves with a small whip that has nails embedded in it. Others are bent under a burden of thorny sticks tied to their extended arms in the form of a cross.

These burdens weigh 100 to 150 pounds, and each penitent had a team that helped them stand up when the procession paused. They administered water and encouraging words, which I am sure they needed. The processions went on for three or four hours. 

Other penitents carry bundles of thorns that weigh 100-150 pounds.
The blood is real.
The Mexican form of Roman Catholicism clings to many of the medieval traditions that came before the Vatican II reforms of the early 1960s. And some of the traditions include elements of the local religions. The Virgin of Guadalupe, for example, is in many ways more important than her divine son in the Mexican belief system.

Holy Saturday: Women penitents carry crosses and walk barefoot, dragging chains.

A squad dressed as Roman soldiers leads a float carrying Jesus into the square in front of the cathedral.


Monarch butterfly reserve in Michoacán
Getting acclimated to Mexico City
Balloon launch over the ancient pyramids of Teotihuacán
Guanajuato: another magical place in Mexico
Coaxtla and Xochitécatl: stunning murals and pyramids
Zacatecas: Silver mines and the mystery of the Quemada
Tenochtitlán and Xochimilco: Mexico City before the Conquest
The Virgin of Guadalupe on a pancake grill and other mysteries

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