If you say “Semana Santa” and “Mazatlán” in the same sentence, most people think of masses of national tourists crowding the beaches, partying in the clubs, and enjoying banda music.
But this, the first Holy Week that we’ve actually stayed in Mazatlán, turned out to be quite a sacred event as well, thanks in large part to the young people of Pajuma, the Catholic youth group. This group of young people assembled behind us, in the stadium, from Thursday through Saturday to celebrate Holy Week and to pray for peace.
Most of the photos in this blog post are from the local newspaper, as I didn’t take any photos in church, and didn’t have my camera ready for many of the events.
PALM SUNDAY/DOMINGO DE RAMOS
Palm Sunday surprised me, as we showed up at church to find an entire marketplace of palm frond braiders selling their wares in the little plaza in front of the church. There was quite a variety of these beautiful folk art pieces, many of them very detailed, and very reasonably priced.
Most parishes in Mazatlán seem to conduct a reenactment of Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem. Actors dress up as Jesus on a donkey, as well as as the Apostles. Observers carry their palm fronds and cheer as Jesus comes into Jerusalem. These are some photos from the procession downtown, conducted by the Pajuma kids. They left the Templo de San José to proceed to the Catedral, and then after mass to go on to the statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe down at La Puntilla.
MAUNDY THURSDAY/JUEVES SANTO
Masses on Thursday usually include the traditional washing of the feet. This is of course the night of Passover, Jesus’ last supper with his Apostles. At that Passover celebration, the Bible tells us Jesus washed the feet of his friends. The humility inherent in washing someone else’s feet makes Maundy Thursday one of my favorite religious celebrations. Here, however, they wash feet a bit differently than what I’m used to in the States (I’m used to us parishioners either getting our feet washed or being able to wash the feet of others). Here the priest washes the feet of 12 men from the parish, representing the 12 Apostles, who are seated in front of the altar.
At the end of mass the altar is stripped and communion is stored away until we can celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. Parishioners exit Mass in silence, or stay in the church for the Easter Vigil (Adoración al Santísimo), accompanying Jesus during his night of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemene.
This mass, for me, was quite awkward. We were all inside, meditating on the impending sacrifice of Our Lord. Outside, pulmonías (open-air taxis) were going by, music blaring on giant speakers, filled with drunken revelers hooting and hollering. While I felt happy for Mazatlán that people were filled with joy, and that much-needed money was flowing into the local economy, it poignantly captured the “life separate and apart” from larger society that Christians are exhorted to follow.
GOOD FRIDAY/VIERNES SANTO
One of the holiest days in the Christian calendar, today commemorates the day on which Christ died on the cross. Many parishes in Mazatlán conduct a Vía Crucis, or the way of the cross, reenacting Christ’s carrying of his cross to Calvary and, sometimes, his hanging and death. These reenactments can get painfully graphic.
The Vía Crucis usually culminates with a mass, during which parishioners kiss the feet of Jesus on the cross. Again, this is one of my favorite religious ceremonies of the year. Here in Mazatlán they stand and kiss the cross. In the US I was used to kneeling to kiss the feet of Jesus, on a larger cross than what is the custom here.
HOLY SATURDAY/SABADO DE GLORIA
Culminating Holy Week for many Catholics, Saturday evening is the lighting of the pascal fire, or the “fuego nuevo.” I always love this night, because the church is completely dark. Every parishioner brings a candle, which are, in Mexico, conveniently sold in front of the church on Holy Saturday. Fire is brought in from a bonfire outside, and used to light parishioners’ candles. The fire is passed from parishioner to parishioner, and the church is gradually filled with light and hope. It’s a gorgeous sight. A few Easter hymns are sung, during which the lights of the church are gradually turned on as well, and we can again sing “Aleluya,” because Christ is risen.
It is at this mass that we renew our baptismal covenant, renouncing evil and professing our faith. Holy water and sacred images are blessed. We can all go home and eat what we want, because the penance you’ve observed for the 40 days of Lent is complete. Unless, of course, you wait till Easter Sunday to attend mass 🙂