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Posts Tagged ‘penitents’

The sights and sounds of Good Friday in Oaxaca have gone missing. Weeks ago, the archbishop canceled all public Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebrations. Jesús, María, San Pedro, Penitents, religious banners, and devotees are not processing through the streets to the rhythmic beat of a tambor, high-pitched tones of a chirimía, and the sputtering sounds of a rachet. While not religious, I miss it and this year last year’s photos will have to suffice.

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The streets are empty, as Viernes Santo has gone silent.

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As far as I’m concerned, Señor de la Humildad y Paciencia was the patron saint of Friday’s, Procession of Silence.  He waited for hours inside the Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo, while we waited for hours outside, for the procession to begin.

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At least he was sitting down.  For the penitents, their lot was a lot of standing around.

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Some of the participants passed the time joking around (and occasionally teasing this gringa blogger), others looked incredibly bored, but all remained patiently stationed in place.  After all, in the words of one guy’s t-shirt, “don’t panic,”  it will eventually start.

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Then, there is always one’s cell phone to provide a bit of distraction.

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The 6 PM start time for the procession came and went, as did the daylight and my hope for taking any decent photographs of the actual procession.  (One of these days, I will master night photography of moving objects, she says, hopefully!)  It looked like even San Pedro was looking to the heavens for divine intervention to get the show on the road.

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About 6:45 PM, with lights flashing, a small phalanx of motorcycle police signaled our prayers had been answered and a hush fell over the multitudes lining the sidewalks, streets, and balconies — the Procesión del Silencío had finally begun.

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In Oaxaca the penitents gathered…

Purple hooded penitent

in front of Preciosa Sangre de Cristo on Good Friday…

3 black hooded penitents

preparing for the Procession of Silence.

Purple hoods behind black hooded penitent

For those who are wondering, “What’s with the hoods (capirotes)?”  The answer can be traced back to the Middle Ages.  Members of lay religious charitable organizations (cofradías) would don the masks and hoods to guarantee anonymity and promote humility in their service.

From the Holy Week in Seville, Wikipedia page:

At the heart of Semana Santa are the brotherhoods (Hermandades y Cofradías de Penitencia),[1] associations of Catholic laypersons organized for the purpose of performing public acts of religious observance; in this case, related to the Passion and death of Jesus Christ and to perform public penance.

The brotherhoods, besides the day-to-day work in preparation for the processions, also undertake many other self-regulated religious activities, and charitable and community work. Many brotherhoods maintain their own chapel, while others are attached to a regular parish.

The Spanish brought the tradition to Mexico and penitents continue to play a major role in the Viernes Santo, Procesión del Silencio in Oaxaca.

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