Cultural Anthropology: Semana Santa in Mexico


“It may be in the cultural particularities of people — in their oddities — that some of the most instructive revelations of what it is to be generically human are to be found.”
― Clifford Geertz

 

The cultural peculiarities of our humanness, especially when studying religions of the world, fascinate me. Mexico has many virgins, and Dolores or Our Lady of Sorrows is particularly intriguing to me.

Although Dolores is an advocation of the Virgin Mary, she represents the sorrows of the mother of Jesus, and is usually depicted with seven daggers piercing her heart, which represent the sorrows all mothers go through when losing a child.

The altars are erected on the streets the Friday before the beginning of Holy Week. Called the Friday of Sorrows, the symbols on the altars help the faithful share her pain and grief, and remind them of the great sacrifice Mary made to become the mother of martyrs.

In Patzcuaro, Mexico, where we are enjoying refreshing highland weather for the month of April, I watched the construction of the shrines, processions, and reenactments of the crucifixion of Jesus, with a healthy dose of skepticism, yet awe for the pageantry.

From the perspective of a cultural anthropologist…as I like to call myself,  I questioned everything, as well as reflected on the religious traditions, how they originated, and their significance to their faithful followers.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Ometepe Island is a Good Match for Us


The Weekly Photo Challenge is: A Good Match

Ometepe Island has been a good match for us to retire abroad because…

Our island and volcanoes go hand in hand

img_1365Charco Verde lagoon is in harmony with nature.
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2016 Semana Santa Statistics


lifeguard quote copySharon, my friend in Granada, reported that it was eerily quiet over the long Easter week holiday. Usually there are endless “bombas” or firecrackers that only make loud and annoying booms. So, she wondered what was up with the lack of bombas. Her Nicaraguan friend said, “We have to save all our money to get drunk. We have no money for bombas.”

That about sums up Semana Santa madness around Nicaragua. Go to the beach, get drunk, go swimming, or drive drunk. We stayed home this year, not wanting to deal with the drunks and crazy drivers over the holiday. But, if you are wondering how crazy it gets over Semana Santa here are a few statistics.

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Marketing Jesus


Every year during the hot, dry weeks before Semana Santa, Popoyuapa welcomes more than 30,000 visitors who arrive by bus, truck, car, and wagon to visit the miraculous Jesus the Redeemer and swim in nearby Lake Cocibolca.

The origin of the Pilgrimage to Popoyuapa is a matter of speculation, but living memory attests that the pilgrimage has existed for the past 150 years, and maybe longer as a pagan ritual for the Nahua wind god, Hecat. Hecat, one of the three major divinities, had a sanctuary in Popoyuapa in 1528. During the Nahua religious ceremonies, they refrained from work and sex, and became drunk. They partied, fought, and danced throughout the night.

According to local legend, the modern-day image of Jesus the Redeemer was found floating on the waves of Lake Cocibolca as one woman’s response to a personal miracle, hence the name, Rescued Christ.

The 1970s heralded a growth in the reenactment of cultural processions and parades in Nicaragua and the Pilgrimage to Popoyuapa was born out of a desire for nostalgic reenactment and religious and cultural devotion.
IMG_1297But, the pilgrims’ festive party brawls clashed with the Rivas parish priests’ desires for a solemn occasion two weeks before Holy Week. The erection of houses of ill-repute, dance halls and liquor stalls in the town square in front of the small church horrified the Rivas priests.

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