Passion Play returns to Mexico City after pandemic hiatus

By Cristina Sanchez Reyes

Mexico City, Apr 15 (EFE).- Residents of the Mexico City district of Iztapalapa staged their world-famous Passion Play on Friday for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic forced the spectacle to retreat behind closed doors in 2020.

“We emerge with strengthened faith, but also with a withered heart. It’s not like the joy of other years, it’s a little painful, but don’t lose faith,” resident Martin Lopez Peralta, clad in the costume of a Roman soldier, told Efe.

From early morning, crowds began to gather along the streets of Iztapalapa, a low-income borough that is home to some 1.8 million people, for the renewal of a tradition that dates from 1843.

Lopez Peralta, one of roughly a thousand community members taking part, recalled that Iztapalapa’s first Passion Play came as a cholera epidemic raged among the 20,000 mainly indigenous inhabitants of what was then a town on the outskirts of the capital.

That inaugural procession was an embodiment of both faith and the hope that God would put a halt to the deadly outbreak.

“We go back to the origins. The cholera pandemic bolstered our faith. Today, it is again faith that moves us and makes us beseech the Lord of the Holy Sepulcher (a figure of Jesus that has long been the focus of Catholic devotion in Iztapalapa) to heal us,” Lopez Peralta said.

The organizing committee expected at least 1.5 million people to watch the young man chosen to portray Christ, Axel Gonzalez Barcenas, bearing a cross weighing 75 kgs (165 lbs) 3 km (1.8 mi) from the borough’s main square to the top of Cerro de la Estrella mountain.

Axel was accompanied by hundreds of barefoot Nazarenes, including 10-year-old Christopher, who carried a smaller cross (10 kgs) to honor his recently deceased father.

Members of Christopher’s extended family have walked in the Passion Play procession for 17 years.

More than 77 percent of Mexicans, nearly 98 million people, identify as Catholics. Only Brazil has a larger number of professed adherents of the Church of Rome.

After the losses from the pandemic, which has claimed 324,000 lives in Mexico, seeing the streets of Iztapalapa filled with people for the Passion Play “motivates us,” Lopez Peralta said. EFE csr/dr

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