Yesterday was Palm Sunday and I observed, with a feeling of respect and rapture, the local Mexicans begin to celebrate Semana Santa (Holy Week).
As I drove to meet my friend who lives on Hidalgo, the street of Ajijic processions, I was amazed. Men, women and children were sweeping the street in front of their homes and sprinkling water on the cobblestone roads in preparation of the holy procession.
Doors of the homes were festooned with arches of palms. After the street was cleaned, residents carried bundles of alfalfa and scattered them upon the street, carpeting the entire procession route with greenery. Wide-eyed children, scrubbed and dressed in their Sunday best, sold individual palm fronds for five pesos each. The frond wands had been torn into eight or ten strips and expertly woven into hundreds of intricate designs.
Just as the last rays of sun dipped behind the mountains, Jesus rode towards the cathedral on a burro, accompanied by his twelve disciples on foot, all somber and dressed in period costume. Behind them promenaded the local priest accompanied by two of his clergyman, all bedecked in elegant red and gold robes.
Four men followed, carrying a platform above their heads upon which a loudspeaker was mounted, so the on-lookers, as well as the participants could listen to the priest as he spoke about the Easter miracle.
The rest of Ajijic and many visitors from nearby villages and cities followed, carrying their palm fronds high in the air. When they reached the church, a holy mass was given.
By comparison, the simplicity and the splendor of this holy procession made Stateside parades seem garish and gaudy. The pride and passion of Mexico’s people shined through, creating for all of us, a truly personal and spiritual experience.
When the procession reached the church, the community entered for mass. Outside, men with handmade brooms filled the street, clearing them of the trodden alfalfa.
After mass, food vendors, musicians and diversions for the children permeated the plaza, along with sparkling lights and merriment. Funds were raised to pay for the Passion Play which will be held on Good Friday. Then, in the church courtyard, Jesus of Nazareth is put on trial. At the end, he is crowned with a ring of thorns, and made to drag a huge wooden cross through the town and up the mountain to the chapel.
Being selected to play Lord Jesus is an honor and several backup performers are required in order to drag the cross the distance. We’ve guessed the cross weighs between 150 and 200 pounds.
I saw the celebration last year and strongly recommend if you are in Ajijic during Holy Week, that you participate in the celebrations.