Holy week festivities around here (Huejuquilla MX) are like a lot of things in Mexico; a mixture of native traditions with catholicism.
When the conquistadores arrived in Mexico they realized that the easiest way to colonize and convert the new world was to let the natives keep some of their traditions and adjust them to include catholicism.
Sure you can dance your traditional dance wearing nothing but a loin cloth and feathers on your head, you just have to dance to a different God now!
So during holy week there is a mixture of traditional and catholic rituals, inside de church there are prayers and right outside in the main square people are drinking and enjoying the lashings!!
There is little written information about what all this means and so most of us just know is something you do during holy week and we are not sure really sure about the origins or the true meaning.
On holy Thursday we go to a nearby hill to bring down Cuero Chochino (pig skin), a type of beast with a pig face and deer antlers. A man dressed as Cuero Cochino carries a long leather whip and throws lashes at anyone who gets in front of him.
Any person from the public can participate and is welcomed to get into the ring and try to see how long they last without getting lashed, a way of proving your manliness and showing your skills. The toreadores (men who jump in) just wear a sombrero de soyate, a hat made of a local palm that grows wild in the mountains, it is a hefty and sturdy weave and something that could have been worn by a warrior.So the hat and a short stick are the only things you can have to defend yourself.
There is parade going down the main street as the Cuero Cochino is throwing lashes.
Once at the main square the rounds continue, anyone from the general public is free to enter and face Cuero Chochino.
The toreadores enter the ring and bang the stick on the floor to entice Cuero Chochino to charge, Cuero Cochino charges and throws as many hard whips as he is able to, and the toreador retreats facing Cuero Chochino defending himself, he cannot attack Cuero Cochino. The toreador will raise the stick to try to get the leather whip to wrap around the stick instead of his body, if the toreador is good he will avoid all 3-5 lashes, or he will get a good lash that hits his skin and at at times make it burst! he will then step out wriggling from the pain.
The pain is sometimes numbed by drinking and smoking peyote. The peyote is allowed to be consumed because it is used by the native people for rituals. So is common to see people with bottles of Tepe (local liquor made of agave) and peyote mixed in along with other things like fruits and other herbs.
There are also some brave women who wear shorts and walk by the Cuero Chochino to get a lash on their legs! just to show it off later to their friends.
These are a group of men with cardboard hats and painted faces and cow horns, they make a lot of noise and catch young men to paint their faces and/or pay a fine. The fines are used to sponsor the festival. I am not sure of the meaning of this either, but I suspect is something that got thrown in there from the religious side, since the word Judio means Jew and the natives would not have any knowledge of Christianity until after the conquest.
On Holy Friday, we go to another hill to bring down Barrabas, who is a guy dressed with a loin cloth and painted face and a colorful head dress. He has the same role as Cuero Chochino.
This festival is also celebrating our local culture and people like to wear traditional hats, jewelry and dress.
Me not wanting to be left behind made myself a muslin dress to wear with my “guaraches” (handmade leather sandals ). And showcase my Huichol hat my Dad bought me.
Huicholes are the native peoples of this area and have manage to keep their culture and way of life intact from outside influences. Most of us who were born in this area, are a mix of Huichol and European descendants.
On Saturday the festival concludes with fireworks and a burning of a piñata with fireworks wrapped around it. Best combination ever!
The piñata is made in the image of Judas, and a couple of the most hated people of the year.
This year the honor went to President Peña Nieto and Donald Trump had the honor once again, the second year in a row!
i Viva la Vida!
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