Uniquely Mexico

Semana Santa Workshop in San Miguel de Allende

Posted by Charlotte Bell

Preparations have begun. Statues are being removed from their nichos, angels are coming out of storerooms, flowers are arriving by the truckloads, palm weavers are traveling from Michoacan, papelarias are stocking up on purple and white decorations, lace mantias are being removed from boxes, black suits are being pressed: it’s time for Semana Santa. Holy Week, is the largest, longest, and most elaborate series of events in the entire year. During this time San Miguel is inundated with visitors from around the world. Images of the Easter story are everywhere. Statues of the tortured Christ and the grieving Mary are carried through the streets, displayed in churches and in windows of homes. Some streets will be closed for hours in preparation for a procession; fireworks at 5:00 AM will accompany others. For the visitor it can seem strange, confusing and sometimes irritating.

When I first came to San Miguel fifteen years ago, I was amazed at the visuals of the processions and particularly the angels. Being a photographer by trade, I was taking photos like crazy and when I developed them I was mesmerized by what I saw. These images led me on a quest that eventually brought me to the dusty back rooms of churches and introduced me to some of San Miguel’s most revered citizens, like Don Genaro Almanza, the local saint maker. He and others carry the stories of old San Miguel and the history of the processions going back hundreds of years, each woven together with local culture and creativity. I recorded my findings and photographs in the book “Tears from the Crown of Thorns”. After the book came out I was bombarded with questions: “What procession should I be sure to see? What time does it start? Where should I stand?” And perhaps the most important question: “What is the meaning?” Since I was already leading historic tours of San Miguel with Patronatos por ninos, I decided to create a venue for the public in the form of a slide show lecture, The Guide to Semana Santa. As it turns out, both tourist and long-term residents, find it useful. There is a saying in Spanish: “El que no sabe es como el que no ve.” Basically this means unless we understand what we are seeing it’s like we are blind.

I have watched the processions for so many years that I recognize some of the people carrying the statues. They are aging just like me, however the women now wear sensible shoes. Except the young ones, who wear spike heels as they carry the heavy statues for hours on the cobblestone streets, their penitence I suppose. The highlight for me is to see the angels in the procession of Santo Entero on Good Friday. They are brought out of storage for this night only. Inside my head I say to them, “Hello again”, I haven’t seen them all year. When you start talking to statues you know that Mexico has gotten into your blood.

To learn how to navigate Semana Santa, please join Charlotte Bell  March 25 or 29 at 2:30, Recreo #4, El Sindicato, San Miguel de Allende.  More information: www.tearsfromthecrownorthorns.com.

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2 Responses to “Semana Santa Workshop in San Miguel de Allende”

  1. Paula Nelson says:

    Dear Charlotte,
    I was planning to attend your workshop today but I was ill. I was so disappointed and was wondering if you have any handouts or parts of your presentation you could share via email. Also, is your book available here on SMA. I have already attended some wonderful events last week and Sunday and don’t want to miss anything. I hope you don’t mind my contacting you.

  2. Nicole says:

    I also missed it and have the same question!

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