Saturday, April 16, 2022

Viernes Santo (Good Friday) in Guanajuato State, Mexico: April 15, 2022

 

With an early start on Good Friday Michael picked us up and we drove toward the small city of Mineral de Santa Ana to photograph their Good Friday procession. Near the city of Dolores Hildago we stopped along the road to watch a small Stations of the Cross Procession. The procession was not led by a priest, and there were no statues carried on flower covered platforms. This was a group of local people carrying wooden crosses. The first station of the cross was a simple table with a bouquet of flowers in front of a nondescript building. A woman in the group read something, presumably from the Easter story, and the group moved on down the road toward the next station.


In Mineral de Santa Ana the streets were lined with parked cars and the paths to the church were jam-packed with people; however, we did notice that we were the only "gringos" present. We arrived early so had the opportunity to wander inside the church and take photos of people getting ready for the procession. 



At the main entrance door, bunches of chamomile, bread, and fruits were handed out. The penitents were taking their places around the flower covered platforms that they would be carrying.




When we thought the procession was about to begin, Dan and I climbed up on a ledge so we would have a good view of the penitents carrying the statutes out of the side door of the church. A latecomer penitent rushed up the walkway and standing just below us, donned his penitent regalia beginning with the back support belt. His family helped him wiggle into the rough cloth robe and his hood. Each penitent wears a rough braided rope around his neck symbolic of the Flagellation of Christ.

The robes (more like a tube with holes for head and arms) that male penitents wear are various shades of purple or violet. The 40-day period of lent ends on Easter Sunday. Violet symbolizes fasting, sacrifice, repentance, as well as royalty. Pontius Pilate, in derision, placed a purple robe on Jesus "King of the Jews."


And, finally the procession began and the first platform carrying the Christ figure wearing a purple robe, a Roman soldier, and possibly Pilate emerged into the sun.



The penitents, barefooted and hooded, move ahead with careful steps like a synchronized machine cautious of the burden they carry. This first group of penitents will eventually be replaced by another group of penitents, and another as relief is needed.



As the male penitents move on, women carrying the Virgin Mary in mourning enter the sunny courtyard. They are barefooted and wear black robes and a black mantilla or head covering. Next out is another holy statue of a woman in a purple robe under a black cape (maybe Mary Magdalene) carried by female bearers.


The last holy statue to emerge, also carried by women, is possibly Joseph.


The procession worked its way out of the church yard to the street that connects to a second church. Crowds of people were everywhere along the way. Relief penitents, both male and female, wait in lines along the procession's route.


Once the procession makes it to the street, a priest installed on a rooftop gave a sermon while the bearers wait still supporting their platforms with their shoulders. It was at this point below the priest that the Roman guard on the platform began to whip the figure of Christ carrying the cross. Each time the guard landed the whip the statute leaned forward in reaction to the force of the whip.



The sun was intense and I can't even imagine how hot the stone roadway felt under the feet of the penitents as they waited.



Although this Viernes Santo procession wasn't even close to being finished, we abandoned our position on top of a store rooftop. Leaving the building through a room behind the small store, I took a photo of a crucifixion shrine with a startled looking Christ on a cross.


We headed toward the city of Guanajuato for lunch. Along the way we stopped at the town of Mineral (a mining town) but found tourists weren't allowed in the huge Mineral Church because of all-day Good Friday services. We saw many penitents strolling around with their rough cloth robes rolled into a bundle and held together with the flagellation rope. Some had chamomile rolled into the bundle. The gift shop below the church had quite a lot of crucifixion memorabilia for sale.

Crucified Christ 380 Pesos
Guanajuato was absolutely packed. Their Viernes Santo procession had long since finished and now people were out enjoying the weather. We had lunch, did a lot of walking looking for less crowded areas, and stopped in at a modern art museum.

Next stop was San Miguel de Allende to catch part of the post crucifixion Procession of Silence. When we arrived many of the streets were blockaded as the procession was in progress. Michael dropped us off and we found a place we could squeeze into at the corner of Canal and Relox near the Jardin Principal. It was a good spot with the low sun lighting up some of the nearby colonial buildings.

This was an extremely somber funeral cortege. Women dressed in black, heads covered by black mantillas, and wearing white gloves carried platforms holding life-sized carvings of the archangels and saints. Men also dressed in black carried the body of Christ.

Women carrying a platform with a life-sized carving of an archangel holding the crown of thorns



The procession made no sound except when the orchestra stopped in front of us and played while the children dressed in white with purple capes sweetly sang.


The orchestra was followed by 36 male pallbearers carrying a bier supporting the crucified Christ in a glass coffin.




Last of all, Roman soldiers walked with deliberate, synchronized steps over the rose petal and chamomile strewn pavement.

As soon as the soldiers passed, a street cleaning crew quickly swept up all evidence of the procession. The light had faded and this Viernes Santo had been a very long but interesting day for us. 


More of Semana Santa tomorrow.

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