Semana Santa in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico: March 23-29, 2016
Four days after returning from our Botswana/South Africa vacation, I was on a plane without Dan and headed to Mexico for a Santa Fe Photographic Workshop in San Miguel de Allende (SMA). This is Holy Week and there were so many photographic opportunities.
Celebrations leading up to Semana Santa (Holy Week) begin the Saturday before Palm Sunday. This year Palm Sunday was on March 20. The Friday before Palm Sunday is the "Night of the Altars" for the Virgin of Sorrows (Dolores).
On Palm Sunday there is a procession with palms and Jesus is on a donkey. Monday is the "apprehension of Jesus", on Tuesday Jesus is in prison and the sacred statue named "Jesus of the Column" is paraded.
The first event I saw was "The Abandonment of Jesus" on Wednesday. From the Oratorio Church, a procession wound its way through the historic center of SMA. People of all ages carried sacred statutes decorated with flowers and some carried other symbols of Jesus' last days leading up to his crucifixion. The procession stopped at each station of the cross for prayers.
|Sweet Angelitas waiting for the processional walk to resume|
|Children at another Station of the Cross|
Holy Thursday was The Last Supper. The crowds were so thick tonight, it was overwhelming. On this night there was also the visiting of the 7 Churches--seven to represent the last seven words Jesus said on the cross: "Lord, Lord, why have thou abandoned me?"
Friday, Good Friday, to avoid the crush of SMA as a group we went to a small town near Guanajuato called Santa Ana to photograph their unique Good Friday commemoration. Participating men are dressed in shades of purple. They are penitents. At one time, the hood would have been a disguise so they could ask forgiveness of their sins without anyone knowing who they are. Now, the hood is part of the costume. Our guide said that the darker the fabric, the longer the person has been participating in the Good Friday Procession. Also, the longer the rope, the more sins that need to be forgiven. The fabrics are very rough and itchy.
The penitents carry the very heavy statue of Christ (carrying the cross) as well as men dressed as Roman guards and three little angels.
Groups of barefooted women also carry statues out of the church.
As the procession wends it way across the church grounds and out into the village and back, lines of additional costumed penitents replace the original penitents in carrying the platform.
Back in SMA, Friday evening was for the funeral cortege Procession of Holy Burial. I managed to find a spot where I wouldn't be jostled too much. Every aspect of the crucifixion was part of this solemn procession beginning with Jesus on the Cross and ending with the carrying of his casket.
In between there were men dressed as Roman soldiers, angelitas spreading flowers and sweet-smelling herbs, groups of choir boys, and sacred statues carried by women or men dressed in funereal black.
A procession of women carrying lanterns followed the casket.
Saturday, a day of mourning, had no sacred events until quite late when a procession led by crosses departed the Oratorio to slowly walk through the streets. A large candle was carried along on a platform. Halfway into the walk, this candle was used to light the candles carried by the procession.
The procession returned to the Oratorio for mass by candlelight.
I joined those that weren't observing a day of mourning, and I went to a bull fight. The bull ring in SMA is quite small so no matter where you sit in the stands, you feel close to the action.
I stayed for only 3-4 bulls because I wanted to make sure I was able to watch the candlelight procession. The first lucky bull was met by recortadors. This was a bloodless exhibition. "Los Recortadores Españoles" do not kill the bull. These guys use the bull as a scary acrobatic prop. The bulls that followed were for the more traditional style of bullfighting.
The death-defying moves of the "Los Recortadores Españoles" were exciting and fun to watch made even better because no one was hurt or killed.
|Javier with "The Beast"|
Sunday's Semana Santa event was a lot less solemn than those of the prior days. Sunday at noon is the "Burning of the Judases." This event dates back to colonial times when burning of effigies was used as a lesson to show that actions have consequences. In today's "Burning of the Judases" effigies are political figures, witches, or anything or anybody that someone might want to blow up.
The effigies are made of paper and a ring of fireworks circles the waist. The only effigy I could identify was Donald Trump. The effigies are suspended along a rope that is lowered to light one waistband at a time. There were a lot of effigies!
|Effigy of Donald Trump|
|Trump Loses Head|
After all effigies have been blown up, the heads that survive can be bought. The head of The Donald was a valuable, in-demand prize today.
And, then it was time for me to go home.
The crowd, the week of events was exhausting but so lovely, thrilling, memorable. The demands of the workshop were challenging and made me venture from my normal safe zone of photography. I enjoyed it!
Santa Fe Photographic Workshops The instructors for the Holy Week in San Miguel de Allende were Jennifer Spelman & Michael Amici. Both are excellent instructors and artists.