For the final days of Semana Santa (Easter Week) celebrations I returned to the village of Cerocahui in Urique Canyon, although this time I stayed atop the rim rather than at the bottom. After a hard day of travel on the economy class El Chepe, which was standing room only for the entire journey, I gratefully climbed into my plush bed at Cabana San Isidro Lodge, pulled three blankets up to my chin to ward off the high mountain chill, and fell into a dreamless sleep.
The following morning, after a delicious breakfast of homemade biscuits and marmalade, French toast, and eggs scrambled with onions, peppers, and cheese; the lodge van delivered me to the small community of Cerocahui. This village of 900 residents, tucked into a high mountain valley dotted with apple orchards, is dominated by an impressive church that was constructed upon the crumbling adobe ruins of a Jesuit mission abandoned in the early 18th century. On this day, its twin golden domes provided an exquisite backdrop for the town’s annual Good Friday re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus.
In the church yard, Jesus was condemned, sentenced and forced to pick up his heavy cross. Statues of patron saints of the church and community, mounted atop pallets, were carried at the front, followed by a blood-stained Jesus and a modest number of worshipers. As we wound through cobblestone streets and began our ascent of Mount Calvary, people streamed in from every direction to join the procession, until the street was a a mass of jostling, slowly moving bodies. I ducked and wove, trying to avoid pokes of umbrellas raised as protection against the midday sun. Mothers carried crying babies in the crush of people and pallet bearers struggled to keep their balance on the uneven footing. Higher and higher we climbed, singing a prayer of pardon as we walked, stopping for prayers at each station of the cross, until finally we crested the Mount and Jesus was raised on the cross.
Can’t view the above slide show of the Good Friday Celebration in Cerocahui? Click here.
After the lorronas (crying women) wailed and Jesus’ body was presented to Mary everyone returned to the church, but this time, rather than attending the closing ceremony, most diverted to the festival set up in the streets around the church. Solemnity vanished as attendees shopped for housewares and clothes while stuffing themselves with sweets and roasted meats, while I munched happily on a ripe mango on a stick.
To be continued…