Friday, April 17, 2009

More Tidbits

Last week was Semana Santa, holy week, and it is a big vacation time for all Mexicans. San Cristobal is a tourist town, and so many natives flocked here to celebrate the holidays. On Friday, Sat, and Sun, there were large events around town that were part of the festivities. Friday featured the Crucifiction of Christ and procession through town which I covered in the previous post. Saturday featured the a display of the "Judases", which were basically artist representations of people or events that have either done the world wrong, or specific segments of society wrong. Saturday night featured
the much anticipated "burning of the Judases", which was basically the burning of the artwork and symbolically the burning of the people who had done society wrong. Each piece had firecrackers inside, some more than others as we found out when the first piece of art was ignited. Sunday featured the procession of the queens, which I missed, but Michelle watched and was similar to a small Tournament of Roses Parade.

So a quick story on the "burning of the Judases". It took place at night, behind the beautiful city municipal building. The crowd was packed surrounding what could be described as an oval barrier around the art, probably 200´ long by 40´ wide. Standing room only. Mostly Mexicans as opposed to foreign toursists. We were standing in front of the piece of art that is round and has a hand on the top (there is a picture of it in our shutterfly gallery), and we were probably eight rows back from the front. The city "royalty" was on the second story of the building and this is also where the announcing for the event came from. They introduced all the important people and some people in the audience chided the "royalty" as they were announced. It was strange to see the general discontent in their government, and also their lack of inhibition in displaying it. Anyway on to the story, When the first Judas was lit, it literally exploded. We have video of it, sort of. The entire crowd was pushed back by the blast, and we were shoved, everyone was shoved, it was one movement, because everyone wanted to get away. I would say 20´ is about how far the crowd retreated, and it was packed with people, so I'm surprised nobody got trampled. The artwork didn't let up easily in it's explosions either. It would pause and then more huge explosions would resound similar to that of an M-80 firecracker, with the entire crowd screaming each time. It was truly frightening and seemed really dangerous. but Mexicans will do things that we wouldn't even dream of in terms of safety so maybe this was normal. Maybe it's normal to have an overstuffed piece of artwork every now and then during Semana Santa. Anyway, each subsequent piece had its own quirk. Some were hard to light, some shot burning firecrackers into the crowd. Some shot fireworks into the air exploding like the fourth of July. One shot a firecracker up to the second floor and it hit a man that looked slightly pretentious and the whole crowd jeered, literally jeered him. That was a trip also. Anyway, they saved the burning of the prime minister of Israel for last. Don't ask me why. A local we spoke to say they went too far with this piece, but he is the only one we spoke to about it, so I don't know the general feeling. From what I can see, the "romantic" idea of the Zapatista movement seems to identify with the plight of the Palestinian people also. I think it's trendy here to support both causes, especially for the young people, however, the more people we speak to, especially adults, the more we hear that the Zapatista movement is riddled with its own problems and injustices. Farms are taken over, by moving brigades of guerrillas, and people are mistreated as they move through areas. The "romantic" idea of the Zapatista movement is much different I think than the reality on the ground.

Getting back to the event.......we made it out of there safely, and it didn't look like anyone else got hurt either. Looking back, there is no way to duplicate in writing the intensity of the event, so I thought it would be best to include a little video. This is the video of the first burning, the one where the crowd was pushed back, and Michelle was actually pelted in the head by flying debris. Enjoy! Ciao for now.


  1. Deja vu.
    I grew up being part of this type of Procession, way on the other side of the globe, in Brugge (
    Bruges) Belgium. I loved rushing towards the Christ figure, riding on a foal, waving palmbranches and shouting "Hosannah". Once historical figure sure made the world smaller!

  2. Hey Mark and Michelle-
    Love your writings-you're good Mark. You've lit the traveling bug in us as we're taking Avery to Oaxaca for three weeks. Happy trails.

  3. Mark and Michelle,

    Your blogs are giving me a great chance to escape. I love reading about your travels and the wonderful places you are going. I have to admit the part I loved best about the video was hearing Michelle laugh!! It reminded me how much I miss her.

    Love and safe travels to you both.


  4. hey M & M..
    Just caught up on your trip... THe video reminded me of a simular event in Cusco.. Bamboo structures built (like 15 of them) in stages. up to 2 stories high. All with twirling & spinning parts ignited with fireworks. as the fireworks worked thier way - parts would spin off into the sky spouting sparks as they went. The sparks would shower over the crowd only feet away - yeh.. the saftey issue & americans sense of responsibility... not there either... BUt what a show.!
    Take care Nadine