Processions for Holy Week – History

November 25, 2008 by  
Filed under What is Semana Santa

Today as throughout history, the celebration of Holy Week (Semana Santa) processions “remains a sacramental centerpiece for the period of Lent. Each procession is organized by brotherhoods which coordinate all of the logistics including the carriers (cucuruchos) for the floats (andas). Some of the major processions begin before dawn and conclude after dark, requiring some 8,000 participants along the route. Although some processions are more elaborate than others, all of them include two traditional andas. The first, bearing a statue of a cross-laden Jesus of Nazareth, is carried by up to 100 men. The second is a smaller float, born by women, transporting Virgin de Delores who represents the Virgin Mary grieving over Jesus’ crucifixion.”

“According to Elizabeth Bell, cucuruchos historically carried the floats with their faces covered. It is believed that the carriers previously participated solely for penance. But, during the 1950s because of political attitudes, carriers were required to show their faces.”

“Preceding the anda in the procession is a man holding a pole with a sign declaring the turn number the procession is getting ready to make. When the float makes the turn, the carriers designated for that turn are waiting on either side of the street and, as it slowly stops, subtly take the place of the carrier in their assigned position.” This maneuver is so seamless that it is hardly discernable, even though you know it is happening.

“The order of every procession follows a similar pattern. The float of Christ appears first with the figure of the Virgin de Delores trailing about a block behind. Accompanying her are a funeral band and two smaller floats with sculptures of Saint John and Mary Magdalene. These are carried by four men who make change turns (but not at every corner).”

“Some of the processions are more comprehensive in the re-enactment of the last days of Christ’s life. Many participants portray Roman soldiers. The roles of Pontius Pilate and Judas Iscariot are paid positions because no one wants to volunteer for them, and they must march the entire route without replacements. One of the most stunning processions happens on the morning of Good Friday, originating from La Merced Cathedral in Antigua. Along with the typical andas, there are incredibly lifelike wooden statues of Christ depicting His torture and suffering leading up to the crucifixion.”

Thanks to for quotes and information on the history of processions for Semana Santa.


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