Forget the Easter Bunny: Easter Traditions in Latin America
One of the most celebrated festivities in the world is coming, and today we want to share some activities on how Easter in Latin America is celebrated.
If you’re planning a trip to see the authentic Easter traditions across Latin America, this little guide will help you choose which country to visit.
You’ll be surprised by all the exciting customs of each country!
This is definitely a trip you must take once in your life. It doesn’t matter if you go to Mexico, Cuba, o Perú, the celebrations are truly breathtaking.
So, pack your bags! We’re going south!
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Holy Week, Semana Santa in Latin America
We know that Spanish traditions strongly influenced Latin American countries. Catholicism did as well.
By 2018, however, this percentage dropped to 50%, and probably that number has decreased even more since.
Holy Week in Latin America, or Semana Santa as they call it, begins on Palm Sunday and ends on Resurrection Sunday or Easter Sunday when people commemorate the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ.
People in Latin America celebrate Holy Week with local traditions that often are hundreds of years old but also come up with their own festivities and religious manifestations.
Keep reading to learn more about this characteristic and attractive celebration.
Palm Sunday, a Significant Day
Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week, it represents the time Jesus arrived at Jerusalem and people accepted him as their Messiah.
On Palm Sunday, people celebrate the “Blessing of Palms,” they do a small procession and go to mass to see a representation of The Passion of the Christ.
During these ceremonies, people are encouraged to keep the palms and place them in their homes next to a crucifix or other religious images.
In some countries, people place the palms behind the front door shaped like crosses as a reminder that they welcome Jesus into their homes.
In Guatemala, instead of palms, people make a bouquet with corozo, statice purple flowers, and carnations of different colors.
Men and women parade with special, beautifully decorated horses and llamas during this celebration. Also, a band follows them, playing religious music.
In Venezuela, Los Palmeros de Chacao is a tradition that dates back to the 18th Century.
In it, boys and men of all ages go up to the Waraira Repano National Park on Friday to cut down the palms, and then on the Saturday before Palm Sunday, they bring the palms down.
Priests then bless the palms and keep them inside the churches.
Street Processions and Regional Traditions
Every year during Easter, people in Latin America go to church, change their eating habits, organize parades, go on vacation, and follow street processions.
As we mentioned before, Latin America was heavily influenced by Spanish traditions.
That’s why in countries like Mexico and Argentina, you’ll run into religious celebrations similar to those in Spain.
We’re talking about processions, wooden statues of religious figures, traditional clothing, etc.
Now, let’s look at what people across Latin America do to celebrate Easter!
First, let’s go to Popayán. There you can see one of the country’s most important processions, which, in 2009, made it to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
From Holy Tuesday to Holy Saturday, five processions run across the city’s downtown.
The main elements are the pasos, which include statues that represent important moments of the Passion of the Christ, using beautiful flowers and wooden decorations.
On Holy Monday, people in Santa Ana celebrate the Talcigüines de Texistepeque.
What an amazing name!
On that day, 19 men wear red tunics, and they represent the devil. Additionally, another actor wears a purple tunic, and he represents Jesus.
In this performance, the men dressed in red represent the devil and the temptations that Jesus received in the desert.
At the show’s beginning, the men in red come out of the church and look for Jesus. They also whip the feet of the people they find out on the streets.
The word Talciguín in Nahuat means hombre endiablado or devilish man.
In Chihuahua, Easter is celebrated differently since people there fuse Catholic traditions with the local customs of the Tarahumara indigenous.
Tewerichic is the name of the Rarámuri celebration where people commemorate the Comonorirawachi, which translates to “when we walk in a circle.”
To commemorate the Comonorirawachi people surround the local churches.
During the Tewerichic, the fight between good and evil is staged. Soldiers are allies of God, and the Pharisees help the Devil.
This dance lasts for three days. Can you believe it?
After good prevails, on Easter Sunday, people dance, eat food, and drunk tesgüino, an alcoholic beverage made from fermented corn.
Traditional Foods Eaten During Lent and Holy Week
Holy Week in Latin America is also a time for family reunions, and whether relatives participate in religious traditions or not, people always enjoy a nice meal together.
In most countries, people eat fish, seafood, or vegetable dishes since they can’t eat red meat due to tradition.
In Bolivia, people prepare a menu of 14 meals made of vegetables, fish, or seafood.
Each plate represents the Stations of the Cross, and one of the most recognized dishes is Humacha Cheese, made from yellow chili, corn, and potato.
Mexicans cook the “Seven Casseroles of Lent.”
This refers to the 7 different dishes Mexicans use to commemorate the 7 days of Holy Week. Additionally, on Holy Thursday, they visit 7 temples.
In Argentina and Uruguay, people eat empanadas all year round.
However, during Holy Week, they are called Empanadas de Vigilia or Vigil Empanadas, which people eat on Good Friday, and, as is tradition, they are stuffed with tuna or some other type of fish instead of the traditional meat.
The Solemnity of Good Friday
Viernes Santo or GoodFriday/HolyFriday is considered to be the day when Jesus was crucified.
Christians all over the world mourn the death of Jesus then.
In most countries, churchgoers perform the Passion of Christ during Good Friday.
You’ll be surprised to know that people even reenact the crucifixion in some cities. Like, for real. Nails and all.
Also, according to the Bible, it’s estimated that the death of Jesus was at 3:00 p.m. on Good Friday. So, at that time, the processions pause, and people pray silently.
On this day, some devotees fast, and they only drink water. Some people take a vow of silence and don’t speak throughout the day, to mourn the death of Jesus.
In Paraguay, for example, you can find the Estacioneros, a group of people who perform sad songs, to remember the life, passion, and death of Jesus.
Holy Saturday in Guatemala
On Holy Saturday, the people in Guatemala dress in black and follow the Virgen de Soledad procession to symbolically mourn Jesus alongside Virgin Mary.
Traditionally, there are children’s processions where boys and girls carry replicas of Jesus and the Virgin of Solitude on their shoulders, so keep an eye on those.
People in Guatemala also symbolically burn Judas, who, in the Bible, betrayed Jesus for 30 coins. Judas is represented by a puppet filled with leaves, branches, and fireworks.
People take Judas around their neighborhood, and at the end of the tour, they set him on fire.
Good Friday vs Easter Sunday
As we mentioned, Good Friday is considered the most important day of Semana Santa in Latin America. People in the US, however, favor Easter Sunday.
And as you can imagine, people in Latin America celebrate Easter Sunday differently.
There are no light colors or floral clothes. There’s definitely no egg hunt. Easter Sunday, however, for people in Latin America, also represents a new beginning.
In Latin American countries, people go to mass on Easter Sunday, while others follow processions that celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, which is accompanied by vigorous and happier music.
But you can find another beautiful procession on Easter Sunday in Latin America called El Encuentro — The Encounter, where you can see Mary when she met her son, Jesus, after his resurrection.
Learn Spanish and Let’s Celebrate Easter Together!
Now that you know more about the most impressive and unique traditions of Latin America during Holy Week, maybe you want to travel to Central and South America.
Trust us, if you know Spanish, things will be easier for you. So, let us help you learn this beautiful language!
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