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placeholder May 5, 2014   •   VOL. 52, NO. 9   •   Oakland, CA

The Holy Week celebration in San Luis Potosi may be the largest of such processions.

Holy week procession grows into
Mexico's largest such event

Each of the 24 groups that have moving altars in the procession has its own distinctive colors.

My husband and I have come from Alameda to experience Semana Santa (Holy Week) in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

The most elaborate event of the week is the Procession of Silence during the evening of Good Friday. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the procession which was started by the Carmelite church, El Carmen, in the historic Centro where there are cathedrals on nearly every block.

All week, special altars, each depicting una estacion del Via Crucis, the stations of the cross, or Misterio Doloroso del Rosario, Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, are set up in churches and neighborhoods to be viewed. Some of these altars will be carried on elaborate wooden platforms, called andas, during the procession.

The San Luis Potosi Procession of Silence has grown from a small event to act out the catechesis of Via Crucis in devotion to Our Lady of Solitude by a guild of bullfighters from El Carmen Church in 1961, to become the largest and only procession in Mexico to include Altars for all the stations of the cross and the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary.

Twenty-four guilds from the communities and churches in San Luis Potosi participate with so many members in the procession that it takes two hours to pass through El Carmen Church. All ages participate from young to old, on a four hour walk in solemn slow steps to the drum beats and bugles through the streets of the historic Centro.

Each guild, dressed in its distinctive colors, carries their special anda, adorned with fresh flowers. It can weigh up to 500 kilos (1,100 pounds). Some have been carved by local artists and others imported from Seville Spain, where the traditions for the procession originated.

Crowds gather hours before the procession starts. Many streets are closed to cars and are lined with rows of chairs for the viewers. Vendors with food stands, toys and other goods pop up in the streets and plazas. A festive, but somber mood pervades the area.

At 8 o'clock the church bells ring, then a bugler calls. Charros (cowboys) on horseback begin the procession of walkers. Drums beat out the slow measured steps. Women, wearing Potosino shawls, carry candles. Men called cofrades who have covered faces carry lighted staffs, drums or horns. The andas are carried by up to 30 men called costaleros (bearers). Horquilleros carry the forked poles placed to hold the anda during the stops. It is a moving sight.

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