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Late afternoon on Viernes Santo (Good Friday), images of Jesús and María gathered, blessings were offered, and all began to assemble on the Alcalá for the Procession of Silence.

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Inside Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo, as the Archbishop called upon the people to reflect on the day and improve as people.

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Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (Our Lady of Solitude) arrives to take her place on the procession route.

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Standard bearers line the Alcalá to honor the arrival of the images of María and Jesús.

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San Pedro (Saint Peter), the only apostle to arrive.

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Jesús waiting in the Templo del Carmen Alto before he ventures out to take his place in the procession.

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Another Jesús image emerges from the Templo del Carmen Alto to take his place on the Alcalá for the procession.

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El Señor de Esquipulas ventures out onto Calle García Vigil, from the atrium of Templo del Carmen Alto, for his journey to join the procession on the Alcalá.

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And now, please keep silent, the procession is approaching.

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Yesterday was another special Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday) in San Antonino Castillo Velasco.  This is a Zapotec village famous for the cultivation of flowers and exquisitely embroidered blouses and dresses, inspired by said flowers.  Returning year-after-year, I never cease to be uplifted by the warmth of the people and the bounty they bring to the image of San Salvador sitting atop his little burro outside the panteón.  The best of their fruits, vegetables, herbs, livestock, clothing, flowers, and much more are gratefully received by a committee, priced, and later-in-the-day, sold to raise money for a designated project.

A little after noon, San Salvador (his burro now filled to the brim), offerings, and the faithful were blessed by the priest.  Fireworks exploded, rhythmic sounds of the traditional teponaxtles (drums) and chirimía (small oboe) sounded, and led by a trail of bougainvillea bracts and the smoke of copal, the litter of San Salvador atop the burro and carried by 30+ men, set off on a journey to the atrium of the church.  They were followed by villagers and visitors carrying the remainder of the goods collected — a ritual reenactment of the Biblical story of Jesus entering Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.

The procession successfully navigated overhead wires above and heeded warnings of “topes” (speed bumps) below.  A kilometer down this perilous route, San Salvador and the faithful, young and old, approached the atrium of the church, San Salvador was set on the stage where an outdoor mass was to be said, and on the opposite side, the hand-and-head-carried offerings were to be sold.  I cannot begin to express how warm and welcoming the people of San Antonino Castillo Velasco were.  Wearing a blusa from San Antonino, that I purchased several years ago, I was smiled upon and, as I was taking photos, officials and other villagers ushered me to the front.  Again, I ask, how many magical moments can one person have?

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Today, Lunes Santo (Holy Monday), found me in Teotitlán del Valle, as Jesús and María were carried on palanquins in a slow moving procession through town, from one temporary tapete (rug) adorned casita to another.  They will make twelve stops in all.

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This casita was erected by the family of the Vice President of the village Church Committee, Amado Gutiérrez, father of Porfirio Gutiérrez, of whom I have previously written.

There was food and drink and so much more to this solemn expression of faith, so please stay tuned…

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Una muestra (a sample) from another sublime Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday) in San Antonino Castillo Velasco.

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Under the lavender canopy of jacaranda, Jesús (wearing his red cape) and his burro enter the church courtyard laden with the rich bounty of the village.

More to come…

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Jesus and Mary up close and in color from their Viernes Santo (Good Friday) morning meeting in front of Oaxaca’s Cathedral.

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I know, some photos just beg for a caption.  Once all the Marys and Jesuses had gathered, prayers had been recited, and rituals performed, they all processed back to their home churches to rest up for the evening’s Procession of Silence.

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… including Soledad.  Since she was going my way, I walked her home.

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And, yes, she made it back to the Basilica safe and sound.

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A few Viernes Santo (Good Friday) favorites from the morning’s encounter between Jesús and María in front of the Cathedral.

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Faces that have become familiar.

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I wasn’t brought up in the Virgin and crucified Christ tradition.  No baggage, no boredom — perhaps that is why I find the multiplicity of María and Jesús images so fascinating.  Thus, I can’t resist a little “up close and personal” at the Procession of Silence.

Señor de Esquipulas

Señor de Esquipulas – Parroquia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen Alto

Nuestra Señora de Los Dolores - Parroquia de Santo Tomas Xochimilco

Nuestra Señora de Los Dolores – Parroquia de Santo Tomas Xochimilco

Señor de Las Tres Caídas - Parroquia de Santo Tomás Xochimilco

Señor de Las Tres Caídas – Parroquia de Santo Tomás Xochimilco

La Piedad

La Piedad

Jesús con la Cruz a Cuestas - Capellanía de Nuestra Señora del Patracinio

Jesús con la Cruz a Cuestas – Capellanía de Nuestra Señora del Patracinio

Nuestra Señora de los Dolores -  Capellanía de Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio

Nuestra Señora de los Dolores – Capellanía de Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio

Señor de La Columna - Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán

Señor de La Columna (front) – Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán

Señor de La Columna (back) - Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán

Señor de La Columna (back) – Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán

The rituals and images continue to remain alien to me, but I can’t help but appreciate them as cultural expressions.

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Good Friday wasn’t all about Mary.  Viernes Santo processions present larger-than-life images of Jesús in all his piety and suffering.

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Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ
Who are you? What have you sacrificed?
Jesus Christ Superstar
Do you think you’re what they say you are?

Superstar, lyrics by Andrew Lloyd Webber

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Last night, fortified by tostadas, guacamole, and a little vino, a gal pal and I set out for the Jueves Santo (aka:  Holy Thursday and Maundy Thursday) tradition of visiting seven churches.  According to that fount of knowledge, Wikipedia, “The tradition of visiting seven churches on Holy Thursday is an ancient practice, probably originating in Rome.”

We purchased our bag of Pan Bendito (bread that had been blessed) and set off.  As always, the sidewalks were teeming with people in a combination of a semi-solemn pilgrimage, street festival, family night at the fair, and date night.  (Of course, there was canoodling.)  And, despite the “Entrada” and “Salida” signs on the doors of many of the churches, foot traffic was often gridlocked.  I didn’t help matters when I stopped short.  Jesus wearing a blindfold?

Blindfolded statue of Jesus

At another church, another blindfolded Jesus…

Blindfolded Jesus behind bars

And, another…

Blindfolded statue of Jesus behind bars

Holy Thursday, Batman, how could I have missed these blindfolded Jesus figures in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013???

(For those, like me, who are clueless where this blindfold business comes from:  According to the Gospels of Luke (22:64) and Mark (14:65), Jesus was blindfolded, mocked, and beaten following his trial and before his crucifixion.)

 

 

 

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And so, Viernes Santo began…

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Processions from churches in the Historic District began at 7:00 AM.

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They converged at the Alameda, on the south side of the Cathedral,

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where “our Lord meets his most Holy Mother going towards Calvary.”

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The faithful, now as one, then proceeded east on Independencia…

People dragging wooden crosses

along with the images of Mary and Jesus…

Statues of Mary and Jesus

stopping along the way at Stations of the Cross.

Septima Estacion - altar on outside stairs

I left at 9:30 AM — they were still going.  Early this evening, all will again gather for the Procession of Silence.  No rest for the faithful or weary bloggers!

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The back of the official 26th anniversary t-shirt for the Good Friday, Procesión del Silencio, doesn’t come close to telling the tale.

Back of T-shirt: Face of Jesus; text "1986 Procesion del silencio 2012"

Images of belief add texture to the ritual procession of mourners grieving the crucifixion and death of Jesus, as related in the New Testament of the Christian Bible.

Close up of a bleeding Jesus head and torso on a cross

But it’s the eyes of believers…

purple hooded face with only eyes showing

that gives the narrative a silent voice.

Virgin Mary statue with halo from shoulders up.

And, grieving mothers everywhere understand.

Profile of a woman wearing black veil and glasses.

No matter where one lands on the belief continuum, it’s hard not to be moved.

(ps)  For lots more terrific photos, take a look at Chris’s posting, The Procession of Silence.

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