Holy Week is the most widely celebrated and overtly theatrical religious observance in Mexico. Metropolises and small towns across country prepare for months for this event that blends the Christian culture absorbed during the colonial period with indigenous influences. When the time comes, participants and places are transfigured. Iztapalapa, considered to be one of the most dangerous suburbs of Mexico City, holds the largest and most elaborate of the reenactments of the Crucifixion, with up to 5,000 people participating. Children turn into Roman soldiers, the actor selected to play Jesus trains for a whole year for this event, spectators are scared and inflamed at the same time by the the drama and realism of the scene. On Palm Sunday in Tetela del Volcan, a rural village on the slopes of Volcano Popocatepetl, ancient characters who embody a mixture of Christian and Pre-Hispanic symbols take the streets. They’re the Sayones, a local interpretation of the soldiers who killed Jesus. Their costumes are adorned with figures of saints, they hold machetes, tools used daily by farmers in Central America, they wear goat leather masks and large paper hats. After the mass that ends the week they run through the public attending the ceremony, and people throw lit matches at them to set their hats on fire, in sign of vengeance for their murderous act.
Fire, fake blood and pulp violence coexist with vast amounts of flowers, bright pastel colors and the excitement of a feast. Iztapalapa and Tetela del Volcan host reenactments that are unique in their genre, and respectively represent the urban and rural declinations of Holy Week, an event that transcends religion to turn into collective catharsis.