Friday, April 09, 2004

Good Friday, April 2004

Venezuela reaches the holy week with a certain trepidation. It is the time of the year, with Christmas, that has become the general vacation time for all, the closest we have from the August exodus of Europe. The travel peak of the year is the week end before Easter, comparable to Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Venezuela shuts down solid for Thursday and Good Friday and with blithely call every day of that week "santo", holy. Not all get Monday through Wednesday as government keeps open, but many private business closes down for the whole week or let a few of their folks take off. Thus Saturday and Holy Wednesday are the biggest departure days, and Easter has become the traffic nightmare day of the year as all return.

Yaracuy is spared some of these excesses since as a small state it probably gets more visitors than people leaving the state. Not that Yaracuy is a state with particularly lots of tourist attraction (it has no beaches, which are the main destination for Venezuelans any time of the year) but it is a state that has many of its natives go elsewhere to find better jobs and they come back home for that week.

Yaracuy is thus rather a quiet state where to spend the Easter Holiday if one is not too keen on noisy and overcrowded beaches. It is also a state that focuses on the Venezuelan traditions. These are numerous around Easter week, the Spanish inheritance. The week is filled with processions and multiple sorts of devotions. Not as exaggerated as those people that drag themselves for miles on their knees in Mexico, or the flashy disguises of Seville with tall pointed purple hats. But in San Felipe processions you do have those that do penance waling the whole precession barefoot and dressed in light purple/dark mauve, the color of penitents. What is rather impressive is the number of children accompanying these processions, all decked as penitents. Supposedly to help their parents pay penance?

Yaracuy as Caracas is very big on "El Nazareno", the Nazarene. This is the figure of Christ, richly dressed (in purple) and bejeweled, but with his thorn crown and carrying the cross for the sins of mankind. The San Felipe Nazarene has actually a helper carrying his cross, as richly dressed as Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea. The most famous Nazarene is the one in Caracas, "El Nazareno de San Pablo" from the church where it used to reside until it was destroyed and moved to Santa Teresa. It is supposedly the figure who during a procession saved Caracas from a plague.

Since there are no new news today as the country is off to its devotions (only some gas stations and pharmacies are open), I am leaving you for a few days with the pictures of San Felipe procession last Wednesday. I will be back on line later next week although I will try to check in, depending of the Internet availability.

The Yaracuy procession is of course a very provincial affair. The local clergy gets a few musicians to lead the rather large procession for a small town. Somewhere in the middle there is the figure of the Nazarene. And the march is closed by the Clergy and an old and decrepit sound system that plays over and over a dreadful music that imitates quite convincingly the lament of the people following Jesus to the Golgotha. Quite an experience. But the devotion of the people is really touching, and for a short while they all forget about politics and try to atone for their sins. The pictures include the Nazarene of course, a penitent and the refreshment stand of shaved ice scones at the door of the church, waiting for the procession to come back.

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