Friday, April 10, 2020

Video of a Very Mexican Holy Saturday Vigil: Merida, Yucatan

Cristo Resucitado (Resurrected Christ),  Merida MX
Cristo Resucitado (Resurrected Christ), Merida MX
The biblical narrative does not have much to say about what went on inside of Jesus' tomb; by the next morning he simply reappears in his resurrected state,.  In Latin America, much is made over the transition of Jesus from death to resurrected life and there is often a service late Holy Saturday night that celebrates this event.  Here is a link to a video of one such service.  It was shot in Merida MX and what happens in the vigil service will surprise you as much as it did me.

Video of Holy Saturday Procession: San Felipe de Jesus, Antigua, Guatemala

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The Semana Santa processions of Antigua, Guatemala are world-famous and rival those of Seville.  In the progression of Holy Week, by Saturday Jesus has been crucified and his mother and disciples are grieving their loss.  In this Holy Saturday procession, shot on location in Antigua, the focus is on the Virgen de Dolores (Virgin of Sorrows), the grieving Mary, who is clad in the colors of mourning.  Here is a link to the video.

Virtual Semana Santa 2020

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In this time of the Covid19 pandemic, many, if not most,  Latin American Catholic archdioceses have cancelled the traditional processions and activities.  A glance at the internet reveals a multitude of virtual offerings, showing the capacity of spiritual institutions to adapt to the necessities of the times. 

The Church in Merida, Yucatan MX has assembled a phenomenal website with offerings from the cofradias (religious organizations) that normally have processions during Semana Santa. It is comprehensive and, although it is in Spanish, will give you a sense of this unique week.

I came across another comprehensive website offering virtual tours of the churches of Peru.
It's worth a look.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Good Friday in Latin America: Santo Entierro

Santo Entierro, Leon Nicaragua
Santo Entierro, Mani, Yucatan MX

Santo Entierro borne in procession, Barrio Sutiava, Leon Nicaragua

In Spain and the Latin American world, Good Friday is a different story.  Celebrations in the US and the larger part of Western Europe follow the biblical narrative where Jesus for the time being disappears after his crucifixion and death.  In Latin America, this is far from the case. After his death, a statue of Jesus is put into a glass coffin, (as shown in above images), left there for believers to mourn, and later carried around town in a solemn procession. This image of Jesus in a coffin has a name, Cristo Entierro or Señor Sepultado.  

To many believers, this death and entombment of Jesus is a reality, not just an enactment.   In some churches, where the service includes an actual crucifixion (with the statue being put on a cross), people will afterwards get up and take pictures of Jesus being moved into the coffin.  The line between person and image is blurred.

On Good Friday evening, there is often a procession with floats bearing images of the grieving Mary and the coffin of Jesus.  People in the crowd will weep. Below is an excerpt from a Good Friday procession in Leon, Nicaragua.


The Jesus of Holy Week is much more complexly imagined in Latin America (and Spain).   There are several different images of Jesus that figure in Holy Week observances. Here is a link to a post describing these:

Below is an excerpt from a Good Friday mid-day procession in Leon, Nicaragua, showing the image of Jesus on the way to his crucifixion.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The Flagellants of Holy Week: Nandaime, Nicaragua

Medieval Flagellants
In Medieval Spain, as elsewhere, self-flagellation during the period of Lent and Holy Week was a fairly common self-purification practice.  The idea was to drive sin from the body through beating it.  This is still practiced in places, but one of the most interesting variants is found in a little Nicaraguan town called Nandaime on Wednesday of Semana Santa (Holy Week).  Here, the custom is stood on its head with procession participants using their whips and sticks to beat onlookers in a very structured, reasonably safe half-hour event.  

A video I shot on-location in Nandaime a few years ago, shows this unique interpretation of Medieval customs.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Central America: a Collection

Sawdust Carpet,  Antigua Guatemala
Semana Santa (Holy Week) in the Latin American world is a visual spectacle. The processions and customs are magnificent and although they are sacred to Christian believers, belief is not a requirement for participation. 

Because of this year's Covid19 pandemic, Semana Santa observances will be different, cancelled in some places, limited in others, and in others, unchanged.  The motherland, Spain, is on lock-down and so its elaborate processions are cancelled.  In Antigua Guatemala, the famous sawdust carpets will not be built, although some families will be able to make small carpets outside of their homes.  

For a virtual tour of some of Central America's most famous and magnificent Semana Santa events, here are links to pieces and videos I have done in past years.  

Antigua Guatemala's famous sawdust carpets:   

Video of these carpets: 

Videos of several Holy Week Processions in Antigua, Guatemala: videos of several Holy Week processions

Antigua Guatemala processions

Article about a unique Holy Wednesday custom in Nandaime, Nicaragua.

The beautiful "Huertas" of Nicaragua:

The Sawdust Carpets of Sutiava (Leon) NIcaraga:
carpets of Sutiava Nicaragua

Granada Nicaragua's one-of-a-kind Via Crucis Aquatic, a procession done in boats on Lake Nicaragua. There is nothing else like it on earth.

An overview of the beautiful Holy Week events in Nicaragua:

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Jeweler to the Divine

Calle La Ronda, Quito, Ecuador
When, while walking down Quito's short Calle La Ronda, you hear the clinking of someone hammering metal, you have reached the studio Germán Campos Alarcon.  He is an orfebre, what in English we would call a metalsmith, and a very famous one at that. 

Germán Campos Alarcon, Orfebre
Señor Campos is a famous man in Quito.  Many tourists and locals buy his jewelry, but you will also find his clients in the very oldest, most historic churches of this colonial city.

In the Latin American world, it is customary to adorn statues of Jesus, Mary and the saints with gold or silver accessories to convey their divinity.   The gold crown-like ornament on this Holy Week image in Merida, MX is a physical representation of Jesus' spiritual powers, his holiness.

Jesus Nazareno, Holy Week Merida, MX
Puebla's Señora de los Remedios wears a crown, showing her position as Queen of Heaven and halo.
Figure of Señora de los Remedios, Puebla, MX
These figures are displayed for public adoration during Holy Week in Granada, Nicaragua.

Holy Week Figures, Granada, Nicaragua

Sr. Campos' busy studio is full of examples of his diverse work. 

Studio of Germán Campos Alarcon, Quito Ecuador

Studio of Germán Campos Alarcon, Quito Ecuador
Studio of Germán Campos Alarcon, Quito Ecuador
Studio of Germán Campos Alarcon

He does not only traditional Spanish Colonial-style metalwork, but is also known for his reproductions of pre-Columbian Ecuadoran artifacts.
Germán Campos Alarcon at work in his studio, Quito Ecuador

Making these beautiful objects is a complex process, as you might guess from the array of tools on his work table. Here are some wonderful videos that show Sr. Campos at work. You will see a master's hands transforming metal into objects of dazzling beauty and spiritual depth.