Photo: Gilberto Morales Pedraza as Jesus
This Semana Santa, thousands of people come from all over México to converge at the capital, in the neighborhood of Ixtapalapa, to watch the annual passion of the Christ.
Gilberto Morales Pedraza, 20, walks slowly, but ceremoniously through the streets of Ixtapalapa, immersed in his role of Jesus. He doesn’t say a word, and his expression of infinite melancholy, is reminiscent of that of a Jesus Christ, walking to die for our sins.
At the end of the parade, Morales, wearing a crown of real thorns, will haul a 200-pound cross more than five miles; he will be tied to the cross, and at 3 p.m. Friday afternoon, Morales will reenact the death of the messiah, on a hill overlooking Mexico City.
This performance has been practiced over and over for months; Leticia Vizcaino, 25, who acts as Mary, says many people contribute food or spaces for the actors to rehearse. “This event brings the neighborhood people together” she says.
The first procession of the Passion of Jesus Christ in Ixtapalapa was staged in 1843 while a cholera epidemic was ravaging town. According to locals, after the parade, the cholera deaths miraculously started to decline and within a few months the outbreak was over.
Since then, residents of Ixtapalapa celebrate the passion yearly, praying on this day for an end to the violence affecting Mexico daily.
“I told her [Virgin Mary] to take my body and to use it to show the people how she is suffering right now over our difficulties,” said Vizcaino, “To reach their hearts and make them think about how we are living. During this week, this reflection is very important to us as Catholics.”