Religious Tourism in Mazatlán and the Nearby Towns During Holy Week

Crucifix over MZT

I took this photo during the Vía Crucis/Stations of the Cross of PAJUMA Mazatlán (Diocesan youth group). It is taken from the top of the lighthouse after the celebration of an open-air mass. Unfortunately this event does not happen every year.

When I arrived in México I couldn’t wait to participate in some of the incredible Holy Week religious events that I had so long heard about and seen—especially those that re-create Jesus’ long walk to the cross, the Via Dolorosa.

Because our son is still in school, we can’t travel while classes are in session. So, we take advantage of the school break to see some of this gorgeous country, and thus we are usually out of town and miss these great events locally. We have had the pleasure of participating in Holy Week ceremonies in the states of Chihuahua (Copper Canyon) with the Tarahumara, Zacatecas, Guanajuato, and Michoacán among a few others…

Do you know that there is a long tradition of beautiful Holy Week events right here in Mazatlán and the surrounding towns? Kindly, our friends over at Mazatlán Interactivo have agreed to permit us to use their photos and legwork to share with you some of what is available right here in southern Sinaloa.

The biggest events locally take place on Good Friday, which this year falls on March 29, 2013. The reenactments of the crucifixion are generally held late in the morning. These involve members of local parishes dressing up in period costume and acting out the 14 Stations of the Cross. This can get very graphic, with realistically simulated whipping, nailing of hands and feet, and bleeding. It is a beautiful and very moving sight to behold, and I highly recommend you experience it. The actors’ lines come directly from Bible verses.

In some communities there is also a Procession of Silence  after darkness sets in on Good Friday. Members of the community process through the streets holding lit candles and religious relics. Often there is solemn music and the procession is followed by a mass.

Here in Mazatlán the Diocesan youth group annually conducts PAJUMA (Pascua Juveníl de Mazatlán) a three-day event that takes place in the baseball stadium Estadio Teodoro Mariscal on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday (March 28-30, 9 am – 7 pm each day). The full three days’ attendance is only 50 pesos, and there is no age limit on participation. The kids reenact the crucifixion of Christ there in the stadium and then, still fully dressed, process from the stadium to the cathedral.

MARCH 29, Good Friday, 5:00 pm
Procession of Silence
PAJUMA participants will leave the baseball stadium at 5:00 and head out to the cathedral of the Immaculate Conception downtown, passing by the Aquarium, along the malecón (not many places in the world you can see a Way of the Cross enacted along the oceanfront!), the Fisherman’s Monument, and the pangas in Playa Norte. The procession will then turn left and go down through Plaza Zaragoza to the cathedral.

MARCH 30, Holy Saturday, 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm
Mass of the Resurrection of our Lord, and then the closing of Pascua Juveníl de Mazatlán. Entrance is free after 5:00.

Pretty much every church in the city will have Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, and a vigil with foot washing Thursday evening. Plus, of course, Easter mass. Some congregations reenact the Vía Crucis as well; check with your local parish. Mouseover a photo above to view the caption, or click on one to view the slideshow.

Cosalá (172 km from MZT)
MARCH 29, Good Friday, 11:00 am
Traditional Stations of the Cross, in the church

MARCH 29, Good Friday, 7:00 pm
Procession of Silence

Mouseover a photo below to view the caption, or click on one to view the slideshow.


Malpica (Concordia; 38 km from MZT)
MARCH 29, Good Friday, 11:00 am
Reenactment of the crucifixion of Christ, starting from the moment Judas Iscariot kisses him and Jesus is apprehended into custody in the Garden of Gesthemane.


Viacrucis escénica en Malpica. Photo courtesy Mazatlán Interactivo

Matatán (Rosario; 82 km from MZT)
MARCH 29, Good Friday, 11:00 am
Reenactment of the crucifixion of Christ as he made his way to Golgotha.


Viacrucis representativa en San Ignacio. Photo courtesy Mazatlán Interactivo

San Ignacio (111 km from MZT)
Our good friends, the reason we ended up loving and living in Mazatlán in the first place, are originally from San Ignacio. It is a gorgeous small town with a huge image of Christ on the hill.

MARCH 29, Good Friday, 11:00 am
Reenactment of the crucifixion of Christ, the Via Dolorosa or Way of the Cross.

MARCH 29, Good Friday, 7:00 pm
Procession of Silence (with music)

Mouseover a photo below to view the caption, or click on one to view the slideshow.

Teacapán (Escuinapa; 130 km from MZT)
MARCH 29, Good Friday, 10:00 am
Reenactment of the crucifixion of Christ and his walk to Calvary.

Via Crucis/Climb to Calvary (up the hill to El Faro)

We were very, very fortunate today to be able to join a group of terrific young Mazatlecos, climbing up the hill to the lighthouse. It was a warm, clear, glorious day, with flowers in full spring bloom.

A few weeks ago a gentleman named Pepe Zataraín had commented on our blog, telling us about PAJUMA Mazatlán (Pascua Juveníl de Mazatlán) and inviting Danny to join him. We joined their Facebook group, and from there we ended up at the blog of the Diocesís de Mazatlán, which is written by Father Francisco Javier Huizar Ibarra. At this blog we saw that there was a Vía Crucis at 1:00 today, Saturday. We were not sure what to expect: a costumed reenactment, a lot of older ladies from the Diocese climbing El Faro hill? We were curious, so, we dropped Danny off for his Scout event at the Red Cross Hospital and Greg and I went over to the lighthouse, not quite knowing what to expect.

We arrived about 12:40, and took a seat at the foot of the path. We climbed up the path a bit and found a hand-painted canvas: the first Station of the Cross. That was reassuring. We walked up to find a second, and then back down to wait for others to arrive. Two separate groups of young people showed up, gathered around the coconut seller and the taco cart, and we figured they were there for the Via Crucis. But there was no priest, no apparent adult leader. Hmmm… Then, about 1:30 or so, down the hill come walking (and sweating) our neighbor Judith with Father Francisco. They had been hanging the canvases and setting things up for our journey. They both seemed very pleased to see us, and eager to have us join the group. Judith was especially happy to see that I had brought a camera, so I primarily do this blog so quickly for her.

We all gathered by the coconut seller’s at the base of the hill for a commencement prayer and a song. One young man had a battery-powered acoustic guitar, and Father Francisco had a battery-powered microphone with speaker. Immediately we felt blessed, as Fr. Francisco’s prayers were so topical and practical: promoting peace in society, strengthening our families, treating others with dignity and respect. We began with an Act of Contrition.

Regardless of your religion, or (this is for you, Eric) even if you feel religion is the root of most all evil, it was a sacred journey in which we were able to join. It was also a peek into a side of society and culture here that is not as visible as I would like: the people in our community who are constantly behind the scenes doing good. Not as sensational as violence, but definitely more constructive.

We began our climb. It turns out this was an event for the team of young adults that organizes and conducts the PAJUMA. They had hand-painted the Stations of the Cross the previous week. Members of the group took turns reading the prayers at each Station. After each Station’s prayer Father Francisco gave us a short sermon, which were all quite powerful. Then we would repeat the pattern of saying several prayers: the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, and Hail Holy Queen. Then between Stations we meditated as we walked.

Station #1: Jesus is Condemned to Death
This station was positioned inside the archway, at the first turn in the path. Basically we were overlooking the water treatment facility, but also Olas Altas rocks and the port. For those of you who have not climbed to the lighthouse before, I trust my photo log will give you an idea of the climb, from near sea level to high on the hill overlooking the city.

Station #2: Jesus is Given his Cross
In this photo you can see on the right that the ocean is getting a little farther away…

Station #3: Jesus Falls the First Time
The paintings the young people had done were simple but quite powerful, I felt. It felt so good to be making this journey with young adults who were so passionate, and who we know will be devoting a week of their lives to teaching younger kids during Semana Santa in the stadium. If you have children and you are going to be here during Holy Week, be sure to sign your kids up to attend!

Station #4:  Jesus Meets His Mother
Here the short sermon was about how we treat our parents, and how that is the fundamental relationship in society. The idea that if we maintain the strength of families it echoes out in waves strengthening the rest of society.

Many of the cactuses were in full bloom, and their green contrasted so beautifully with the blue of the ocean. It was definitely an afternoon filled with awe and wonder.

Station #5:  Simon of Cyrene Carries the Cross
Here the short sermon was about how we help others; when do we take it upon ourselves to do what is not required of us, to reach out and love others, show them mercy?

Station #6:  Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus
Building on the idea of random acts of kindness, we reflected on when we reach out to wipe the brow of another, to lessen or ease their load.

Station #7: Jesus Falls the Second Time
You can see how the vegetation has changed, indicating the change in elevation already. We started with cactus, and now we see trees.

Station #8: Jesus Meets the Daughters of Jerusalem

Station #9: Jesus Falls the Third Time

Station #10: Jesus is Stripped of His Garments

Station #11: Crucifixion: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

Station #12: Jesus Dies on the Cross

The climb gets steeper and steeper. In most places it’s just dirt with rocks peeking through, but in a few of the steeper places there are stairs, or cement, and thankfully a rock wall beside you against the drop off.

Station #13: Jesus’ body is removed from the cross (Deposition or Lamentation)

Station #14: Jesus is laid in the tomb and covered in incense. We entered the upper gate, nearing the lighthouse proper. As we walked into the open space where the view is so beautiful, we saw an incredibly gorgeous sight: a very large handcarved and painted crucifix, mounted looking over our city of Mazatlán.

For this Station we celebrated the Eucharist. It was such an honor and a thrill to be able to celebrate a Mass in the open air, and particularly on such a gorgeous day, with a spectacular view, in the presence of so many incredible young people. An added bonus for us was that as we waited at the top a few minutes for Fr. Francisco to finish preparing for Mass, our friend Trini showed up. It seems she climbs the lighthouse every week for exercise and relaxation. So, she was able to join in the Mass as well. There were quite a few tourists at the top, and one young boy about seven who was just fascinated with everything going on.

The first reading.

The second reading.

The Gospel.

The sign of the peace.