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Pageantry and devotion accentuate Lakeside Easter observances

The Easter season in lakeside’s predominantly Roman Catholic communities will be framed by solemn rites and age-old customs that will be observed from this weekend through Sunday, April 20.

Traditional processions and pageants bring the Easter story to life, heightening personal identification with core values of the Christian faith. These colorful public spectacles, drawn from Biblical accounts of the last teachings, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, have evolved from methods of evangelization introduced by Spanish missionaries who arrived in Mexico nearly 500 years ago.

Dramatic representations of the Passion of Christ – commonly referred to as the Via Crucis or Judea Viviente – are staged by amateur theater groups in cooperation with local churches. Program formats vary from place to place, each reflecting the hard work, creative talents and profound religious devotion of hundreds of volunteers who participate as actors, set builders, costume makers, makeup artists, stage hands, technicians and support teams.

The following Semana Santa (Holy Week) calendar highlights activities in Chapala, San Antonio and Ajijic. Details of similar events taking place in Jocotepec, San Juan Cosalá and other lakeshore towns are advertised at local churches.

Keep in mind that the listed starting times are subject to delays and last-minute changes. Crowds of spectators often assemble an hour or more in advance to secure prime viewing spots. Recommended safeguards for withstanding intense daytime sun and heat include light weight clothing, hats, sun screen and frequent hydration. Sturdy walking shoes are best for safely navigating cobblestones and rough terrain while following moving sequences.

Motorists are advised to avoid road travel in the vicinity of events that are in progress. Residents are asked to cooperate in keeping parked vehicles off the streets along the routes where processions are taking place.  

April 11: Friday of Sorrows

Viernes de Dolores is observed on the last Friday before Holy Week in tribute to the Virgin Mary for the sorrows she endured as prophesied in scripture.  Although the widespread custom of setting up household altars dedicated to La Dolorosa (the Sorrowful Mother) appears to be dying out, it is still preserved by many devout families at lakeside, particularly in San Anotnio Tlayacapan.  Villagers wander the streets after dark to view the artistically arranged devotional displays and sample homemade agua fresca beverages symbolizing the Virgin’s spilled tears. 

April 13: Palm Sunday

Domingo de Ramos is marked by religious processions commemorating Jesus Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem in company of his Disciples. Pilgrims follow along carrying herbal bouquets or symbolic figures fashioned from palm fronds, straw and wheat springs that are blessed with holy water by the clerics. Some blessed palms are later burned and the ashes reserved for marking the foreheads of communicants with the sign of the cross during Ash Wednesday services the following year.

Chapala: The blessing of palms and procession gathering point is in front of the municipal coliseum at the north end of Avenida Madero, 8 a.m., continuing along the main thoroughfare to the San Francisco church atrium for celebration of Mass, 9 a.m.

San Antonio: The procession leaves the Unidad Deportiva sports complex at the west end of Ramon Corona, 1 p.m., to arrive at the San Antonio parish for Mass, 2 p.m. A traditional village fair keeps the plaza busy throughout the afternoon and evening. 

Ajijic: The Pasión de Cristo organizing committee hosts the traditional Jamaica del Pasado (old-fashioned village fair) at the plaza, 4 to 11 p.m. (see related story, next page). The Blessing of Palms is held at Seis Esquinas, corner of Hidalgo and Alvaro Obregon, 7:15 p.m., followed by the procession via Calle Hidalgo-Parroquia leading into the celebration of Mass in the San Andres parish atrium, 8 p.m.

April 17: Maundy Thursday

Jueves Santo is marked by religious services commemorating the Last Supper. Afterwards, church bells and musical instruments are silenced inside all churches until the conclusion of Saturday’s Easter Vigil.

Chapala: Visit to the Seven Temples, 9 a.m. to noon, departs from the San Francisco parish, stopping for in sequence at the El Carmen, Sagrado Corazon, Guadalupe, El Refugio, San Miguel and Lourdes churches. Mass, with commemoration of the Last Supper, is held at San Francisco and other churches, 5 p.m.

San Antonio: Last Supper service is celebrated at the village parish, 7 p.m. Afterwards the Via Crucis Viviente program opens, 8:30 p.m., with scenes of the Last Supper, Garden of Gethsemane, arrest and trial of Jesus, staged at the Teatro del Pueblo in the courtyard of the Cuauhtemoc elementary school opposite the church. The presentation is complemented by live music performed by the CREM Orchestra.

Ajijic: Celebration of the Last Supper during evening Mass, 8 p.m., at San Andres. Afterwards the Pasión de Cristo cast presents episodes of the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ’s final teachings to his Disciples and the Kiss of Judas, staged on the mountainside location at the top of Calle Tempisque, starting around, 9:30 p.m. The sequence ends with torch-bearing Pharisees and soldiers apprehending Jesus and marching him to the plaza via Tempisque, Emiliano Zapata and Colón for scenes of the Trial by the Sanhedrin enacted in front of the Centro Cultural.

April 18: Good Friday

Viernes Santo is a prescribed day of fasting and abstinence. Representations of the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) climax with the Crucifixion and burial scenes. Following somber evening church services lasting around two hours, the faithful parade through darkened streets to mourn the death of Christ with La Marcha de Silencio, a chilling procession that is mute except for the sound of shuffling feet and chains dragged along the ground.

Chapala: The Via Crucis Viviente at the San Francisco atrium begins at 9 a.m. with a sequence of scenes running from the Last Supper through the Trial of Jesus. The Way of the Cross follows, traveling via Paseo Ramon Corona, Zaragoza, Raul Navarro, Privada Madero  and Miguel Martinez, to end with enactment of the Crucifixion. Celebration of the Passion of Christ, 4 p.m., at San Francisco and several other churches. Marcha de Silencio leaves San Francisco parish, 7 p.m., followed by Rosary of Sorrows and Reflection on the Last Words from the Cross.

San Antonio: The Via Crucis Viviente resumes, noon, with the trek to Calvary starting at the east end of town, Calle Ramon Corona at Arroyo Hondo, running straight across Ramon Corona to a vacant lot at the street’s west end. Following the Crucifixion scene, the body of Christ is carried to the church atrium to be laid to rest in his tomb. Passion of Christ service at the church, 5 p.m. The Marcha de Silencio departs the parish at 9 p.m., winding through town past the Four Crosses and returning to the church for the Rosary of Sorrows, 10 p.m. 

Ajijic: The Pasión de Cristo program picks up again in the San Andres atrium, 11 a.m., with scenes of Christ facing judgment and condemnation before Pontius Pilate and Herod, and flagellation by Roman soliders, played out on rotating scenic backdrops. The Via Crucis follows, with performers and spectators accompanying Jesus as he bears a heavy wooden cross to the Crucifixion site, taking Calles Parroquia-Hidalgo, Juarez, Angel Flores and Tempisque to the same spot of Thursday night’s episode. Afterwards, the Disciples carry Christ’s body back to the center of town for a burial scene inside the church. Liturgical celebration of the Lord’s Passion and the Rosary of Sorrows devotions at the San Andrés atrium begin at 7 p.m. The Marcha de Silencio leaves the church at 9 p.m., traveling along Marcos Castellanos, Constitucion-Ocampo to Seis Esquinas, returning to San Andres via Hidalgo-Parroquia.

April 19: Holy Saturday

Evening Easter Vigil services end with the rekindling of the sacred altar lights and the Pasqual Candle, after which church bells will peal anew to herald the Risen Christ. The evening caps off between 11 p.m. and midnight with the traditional Quema de Judas, in which papier maché effigies-commonly representing politicians or other public figures considered as traitors-are strung up and blown to bits with strings of noisy firecrackers.

Chapala: Solemn Easter Vigil services at San Francisco, El Carmen, Refugio and Cristo Rey churches start at 9 p.m. Burning of Judas figures outside city hall around 11 p.m.

San Antonio: Blessing of the New Fire new fire ceremony starts at the waterfront Malecón, 9 p.m. The solemn Easter Vigil at the church atrium, starting 10 p.m., includes Via Crucis Viviente players reenacting the Resurrection.

Ajijic: Easter Vigil service, 8 to 10 p.m., is held in the San Andres atrium, with Pasión de Cristo principals appearing to portray the Resurrection. The Quema de Judas follows around 11 p.m. at the plaza. 

April 20: Easter Sunday

As a day of Holy obligation for the faithful, all local churches schedule services throughout the day. San Antonio celebrates the holiday with the Marcha de Alegria lively parade around the village, departing from the parish, 8:30 p.m.

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