Chains and ache: How one Mexican city celebrates Holy Week


ATLIXCO, Mexico — Barefoot, half bare and blindfolded, throngs of center aged males groan as they drag their our bodies alongside blazing cobblestone streets.

Items of cactus sit lodged on their legs and arms, and 70-pound chains hold round their necks and clatter round their ankles as crowds watch them go.

For these males, it’s not a type of torture, however slightly a cherished custom that has performed out for greater than 100 years within the Mexican city of Atlixco.

Yearly on Good Friday within the small Mexican city of Atlixco, greater than 100 males make the trek referred to as the Procesión de los Engrillados — the Procession of the Chained.

On this nation the place almost 80% of the persons are Roman Catholic, the members imagine it’s a approach to give thanks or to pay penance for his or her sins.

“It’s an act of gratitude for all that God has given me, and a approach to express regret for all of the unhealthy I’ve executed to be a greater particular person,” mentioned Martín Cazares, 42, who has participated within the march for 20 years. “It helps me mirror.”

Chains wound round Cazares’ naked chest, a purple material wrapped round his eyes and a crown of thorns rested on his head. He waited patiently for his flip, whereas occasion organizers tossed small, spiny chunks of cactus onto his legs, and people of the opposite marchers, the place they caught within the flesh.

Organizers say the story behind the custom dates again to a person who was mentioned to make use of witchcraft to win a girl’s coronary heart. He went to a cemetery and lower off the finger of a useless man to make an amulet to win her love, the story goes.

However wracked with guilt, he determined to pay penance sporting heavy chains and trudging by way of Atlixco every Friday earlier than Easter. Over the previous century the custom has steadily grown.

Sweat-drenched males stroll greater than a mile by way of the city of multicolored buildings and colonial church buildings two hours outdoors the capital Mexico Metropolis.

A whole bunch of onlookers line the road as volunteers fan the chained males with items of cardboard and squeeze items of lime into their mouths — the one factor they’re allowed to drink throughout their stroll. Blood drips from the calves of some males because the volunteers choose up items of fallen cactus and lob them again at their our bodies.

“The spines are very painful, and it’s exhausting,” Cazares mentioned. “The warmth suffocates you, and the exhaustion with the solar, the solar burning your ft, it’s an excessive amount of.”

But Cazares mentioned he participates yearly with out fail.

Bautista, 58, who has lived in Atlixco her total life, mentioned she remembers watching with horror as her uncle joined the march for 3 years when she was a little bit woman.

“I feel God forgives you for the easy act of asking for forgiveness,” she mentioned. “You don’t must do such nasty issues to your physique.”

Others like Alicia Garcés, coordinator of the march, brush off criticisms that the procession is one thing morbid.

She feels the occasion is a practice value preserving, however she worries that participation has dropped off lately. That has coincided with a dip in Catholicism throughout Mexico, a rustic with one of many largest variety of Catholics on this planet.

Since 1990, the share of Mexicans who determine themselves as Catholic has dropped from simply over 90% to 78%, in line with Mexico’s 2020 census.

The cornavirus pandemic additionally dealt a blow to the Procesión de los Engrillados, and Garcés hoped this 12 months’s occasion would rekindle curiosity.

“For the individuals of this city, it’s essential that at this time, after three years of pandemic, we return to the streets to dwell this ardour,” she mentioned.


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