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Ann Murdy | profile | all galleries >> Galleries >> Semana Santa in Michoacán, Mexico 2022 tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Semana Santa in Michoacán, Mexico 2022

Earlier this month I took a two week journey to finally return to Michoacán, Mexico after not being there since January 2020 due to the global pandemic. I can’t express how happy I was to finally return to taking photos in this amazing state in Mexico. I truly believe this state is under appreciated as it has incredible folk art, textiles, churches and the most beautiful indigenous culture.

Semana Santa is an important time throughout Mexico. On the Friday before Palm Sunday which is known as Viernes de Dolores, altars are constructed for the Virgin Mary who is known as the Madre Dolorosa or the Mother of Sorrows. Purple is the predominant color during this time of year as it represents the passion of the Christ. During Semana Santa most of the altars in the churches are covered with a purple drop cloth. In the village of Pomacuáran, the statues of the saints had purple blindfolds over their faces. In other villages the statues of the saints were completely covered in purple fabric creating an eerie feeling. On Easter Sunday the purple drop cloths are removed. In most cases the altars feature a statue of the resurrected Christ dressed in white.

I hit the ground running as my first full day was spent delivering photos to the communities of Angahuan and San Lorenzo both located in the Meseta Purépecha from January 2020. This is something I always do to show my appreciation for the opportunity to take photos no matter where I travel in Mexico. When I delivered my packet of photos to a young man in San Lorenzo he said “I remember you”. Much to my surprise he told me he was one the the Maringuilla dancers in a photo that was a group shot. A Maringuilla dancer is a male who dresses as a woman. I asked him which of the dancers he was in the photo because I couldn’t recognize him in the photo as he was wearing a wooden mask. I was so happy that one of the photos I delivered featured him. He also told me there would be a procession the next day and they also had a celebration for Easter Sunday which I ended up photographing.

The first procession took place on Saturday before Palm Sunday. Before the procession a mass was held outside of the capilla where communion took place. Due to COVID only the wafers were given to the faithful. After the mass concluded a few of the processional floats were taken out of the capilla for a very short procession as it only went around the plaza. After that, the processional float with the Virgin Mary was placed outside the doors of the capilla where prayers were said.

On Palm Sunday there weren’t any processions in the villages I visited in the Meseta Purépecha, so I decided to photograph the Concurso de Indumentaria Traditional de Danzas y Ceremonias de Michoacán known as the clothing contest in Uruapan. It was completely different from my visits in the past. It always took place on Palm Sunday in the textile court in the early afternoon. After the contestants were judged at the Casa Cultura, which wasn’t open to the public, the contestants then proceeded to the Textile Court where each individual would model onstage.

This year the event began at 8:00 in the morning. It was held in a small room in an outdoor patio that had an altar to the right of the Madre Dolorosa. The back of the room was filled with around fifty folding chairs where the contestants would wait to be called for their entry in the contest. There were 3 banquet tables to the left, back and the right where three judges sat at each table. Once the contestants were called upon they stated their name, age, spoke about the clothing they were wearing and the customs in their village. They judges scrutinized every aspects of their clothing from the ribbons in the women’s hair, the jewelry, hats, the hems of their clothing, etc. It was a very serious affair.

The next day I had my driver take me to the villages on the east side of Lake Pátzcuaro looking for churches to photograph that were decorated for Semana Santa. The day after I went to the villages on the east side of the lake doing the same.

On Wednesday I went to the Meseta Purépecha to photograph two churches with painted, wooden ceilings. The first church I visited was the San Miguel Arcángel Chapel in Pomacuáran. It was built in 1680. It appeared the paintings on the ceiling in the chapel hadn’t been restored as the paint was faded. It was an amazing experience to see something so beautiful painted by hand. There were multitudes of angels painted on the ceiling.

The next church I visited was the Apostle San Bartolomé in Cucucho. It was built in the 16th century. The paintings on these wooden ceilings were much larger done in earth tones. They featured images of angels and their patron Saint, San Bartolomé. These churches with the painted wooden ceilings are unique to the Meseta Purépecha. Here is a link about the painted ceilings in the Meseta Purépecha:
https://www.198mexiconews.com/2022/02/11/in-mexico-ornately-painted-churches-enshrine-years-of-indigenous-resilience/

Good Friday was spent in a Purépecha village on the west side of Lake Pátzcuaro for their Via Crucis ceremony. A young man from the village depicted Christ. He was escorted by Roman soldiers as they visited the fourteen stations of the cross. This was different from other Via Cruicis processions I had seen in the past. Christ didn’t wear a crown of thorns nor was he hoisted onto a cross where he was crucified at the conclusion.

At seven o’clock that evening there was Procesión de los Cristos in Pátzcuaro. The procession was huge. It was completely different from the one I photographed in 2016 as it was more elaborate. Almost all of the participants wore masks in the procession with the exception of children. It appeared masks were worn more in the urban communities and not so much in the indigenous communities. This was the first time the procession had taken place since 2019.

On Saturday evening starting at six o’clock, the Procession del Silencío took place in Pátzcuaro. This procession along with the one from the night before were very solemn affairs. Hooded penitentes from different brotherhoods took place in the procession. They wore black, brown, purple robes with matching hoods whereas the last group wore purple robes and a grey hood. The eerie sound of a horn sounded throughout the processional route along with the beat of two drums. These men were doing penance, thus their identities were hidden by the pointed hoods that they wore. They slowly walked over cobblestone streets with bare feet. The sweet scent of copal incense filled the early evening air.

For Easter Sunday I returned to San Lorenzo for their celebration. All the processional floats with Virgins had been taken out of the capilla and placed in the courtyard. There must have been twenty or more. They were elaborately decorated with fresh flowers containing images of the resurrected Christ and the Madre Dolorosa. There were two floral displays in the front and two in the back. One always knows when a fiesta is about to happen because the church bells begin to ring vigorously and cohetes (bottle rockets) are launched into the air. Once the event started the processional floats were move to the west side of the plaza. Little girls and teenage girls ran with the processional floats for three blocks and then returned, where another group followed in their footsteps. Little boys, teenage boys and men ran with a very small processional float with a statue of the resurrected Christ who had colorful satin ribbons attached to his head. I’m not sure exactly what this running of the processional floats symbolized but it was amazing to watch the young girls and teenage girls carry the andas (processional floats) as I imagine the ones with the Virgins and floral decorations must have been quite heavy. Eventually a procession with the resurrected Christ on an anda appeared with a live band. Each of the processional floats went up to the statue of Christ where they bowed down to him. Once this concluded there was a small procession to the church. The temperature was in the mid-eighties, so I truly admired the energy of all of the participants who took part in the running of the andas.

From here I traveled a short distance to see the capilla hospital or huatapera de la Inmalculada Concepción de Santa Rosa in Zacan. This capilla was built in 1857. It is also known for its painted wooden ceilings. The painted ceilings here were in vibrant colors. I don’t know if it had been restored. They featured many images of the Virgin Mary. The images also represent the litany of prayers. As it was their feast day a colorful altar of Santa Rosa was decorated inside the huatapera.

My focus of this trip was to document the churches with the painted ceilings and the customs of Easter in the Meseta Purépecha. When I visit the villages and the churches in this region of Michoacán, I truly feel I have been transported to another world as it is so different from other parts of Mexico I have visited in the past. I find it to be exotic and magical. I was filled with so much joy to witness such beautiful customs and the true authentic culture of Michoacán.

Lastly I would like to thank the village of San Lorenzo for being comfortable with me taking photos of their celebrations. Also, a big thanks goes to my driver Homar Cruz who always arrived promptly for all the destinations, being a cautious driver, recommending a laboratory where I got my COVID test to return to the USA and being most helpful whenever ever needed! Gracias a todo!
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Detail of the Madre Dolorosa
Detail of the Madre Dolorosa
Altar for Domingo de Ramos
Altar for Domingo de Ramos
Altar with the Madre Dolorosa in San Jeronimo
Altar with the Madre Dolorosa in San Jeronimo
Plaza Grande Madre Dolorosa Altar
Plaza Grande Madre Dolorosa Altar
Altar for the Madre Dolorosa in Pátzcuaro
Altar for the Madre Dolorosa in Pátzcuaro
Altar for the Madre Dolorosa in Uruapan
Altar for the Madre Dolorosa in Uruapan
Madre Dolorosa in procession
Madre Dolorosa in procession
Madre Dolorosa altar in Pátzcuaro
Madre Dolorosa altar in Pátzcuaro
Madre Dolorosa in Templo San Francisco
Madre Dolorosa in Templo San Francisco
Statue shrouded in purple
Statue shrouded in purple
Floral Madre Dolorosa
Floral Madre Dolorosa
Detail of the Madre Dolorosa on the Plaza Grande
Detail of the Madre Dolorosa on the Plaza Grande
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