Along the Natchez Trace

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Semana Santa - Day 4

Yesterday was our last day of classes.  I'll be writing all about that later, but want to keep a record of each day of Semana Santa (Holy Week).  We knew that a procession would be passing right in front of our school at 5:30, so after class we got something to eat, then went back to the school so that we could have "ringside" seats of the parade.

The crowd started gathering early...
By 5pm the streets were packed... 

I have been using the word "parade", and while technically that's what these are, they are called a "cofradia".  This is made up of one, two or sometimes three processional platforms or "pasos".  A paso is kind of a portable altar on which an episode of the gospel is represented.  It moves thanks to the costaleros (the men under the platform) that, carrying the weight on their shoulders, move, little by little down the streets.

There were costaleros hurrying to the procession starting point...
Men (and women and children) are part of the brotherhood of a church.  This brotherhood, the El Baratillo, was formed in 1693.

I loved watching the little kids..
The costaleros hand out "holy cards" and "religious medals" as they pass by people watching from the sidewalks.  Often, the little kids pass out candy.

Here's another little girl on her way to the church..
Her garb is a little different than most we saw.

Children of all ages are dressed for the parade...
His mother probably has a little cone-shaped hat for him somewhere in his stroller....

I guess I'm kind of partial to the little ones...
I think this little guy was ready to raid his stash of candy...  

The procession was postponed because of the threat of rain..  5:30 came and went...  6:00...  6:30...  by 6:50 Bill and I are considering heading home.  At 7:00 someone decided that it was not going to rain and the parade began.
The nazarenos, who with their tunics for the procession and capirotes (cone carton on the head), carry candles, emblems or rods.  The penitents (dressed in tunics, but their hats do not have a cone insert), carry crosses instead. 

While most of my photos were taken from a first floor window, I went upstairs to another classroom to get this shot...
As you can see, the street is very crowded.  Hardly room for the procession to pass through...

Finally, the first "paso"
This paso is of Jesus - he has been taken down from the cross. 

A  photo of the penitents...
These crosses are more symbolic than the "real" thing, but still... to carry one of these for hours would make a person quite weary.

Another photo of the paso
Right behind this paso is a band...
 Some have music, others a respectful silence.
There are some processions that are totally silent... and during the night, with only the candles lit, I understand it can be quite eerie watching a long line of hooded men walk by, not making a sound.

A Huge Band!
Those hats look like Roman helmets from gladiator days! 

The last paso is the Virgin Mary float...
Whether a procession has 2 or 3, the last paso is known as the "paso de palio", and is always the Virgin Mary in a sorrowful attitude under a canopy, supported by 12 bars and always with candeleria used to hold the candles lighting the scene.  Rich embroidery gives a touch of art to these pasos.

During the rest of the year, these pasos are kept in a special room in each church - often on display for the public throughout the year.
They are very intricate... and very expensive.  If there's even a threat of rain, they will not be taken outside.  We're told that if it rains during Holy Week (as it has this year) and a church's procession is canceled, it can reduce people to tears of disappointment and sorrow.

There are a total of 60 churches that participate in the cofradias in the streets...  walking from their own church to the main cathedral, then back again.  The longest procession lasts 14 hours!  This was one of the shorter ones...   only 2 hours total.  There were over 5,000 participants in this particular parade.

There were 9 different parades today.. On Thursday there will be 7 more.  These processions are everyday up until and including Easter Sunday.  Is it no wonder that this week is a holiday for most people?

That's All For Today!


  1. Wow, they sure do have the pageantry!!

  2. That has to be really something to see. The floats are beautiful, and the children are so cute in their garb.

  3. Do they have any gift-giving or special meals associated with it? We're having a ham dinner on Easter Sunday. After lent, I wonder what they feast on.

  4. Interesting that the religious and cultural activities are celebrated in such a big way.

  5. Thanks Sharon for sharing the images and commentary. It's quite different then any observances of Holy Week in the US and very beautiful to see and with so much passion as well. Happy Easter to you and Bill.