Semana Santa, Oaxaca, Mexico


The Catholic celebration of Semana Santa happens every year in April during Easter. The occasion is a big deal to many in Latin America. Festivities take place for the entire week and coincide with a vacation for many folks. The rituals and celebration I witnessed made quite an impression and still linger with me. I was in Oaxaca City for the occasion. Santo Domingo looms in the center of the city where the most predominant activities take place. The week-long celebration comes to a culmination on Sunday with a silent procession as the pinnacle of observation representing the return of the great savior, Jesus Christ. One mustn’t be religious to feel the immense symbolism of this grand gesture of a parade.

Throughout the late afternoon, people start to gather, crowding the sidewalk of the main drag where the procession takes place. Vendor sell corn, hats, and Oaxacan souvenirs while visitors take photos in front of the iconic Santo Domingo, adults chat and kids chase through the streets. At the start of the evening, the crowd was at its peak, bodies densely packed and the buzz of people rang loud and joyous. Like a wave, silence flushed over the crowd and attention turned to the start of the silent parade.

The sudden change in energy was palpable. Quiet, somber mourning came over the crowd. Participants were cloaked in robes and women’s faces covered with black veils. They moved slowly, carrying the weight of crosses, coffins, and representations of Jesus and Mary, each step meticulously placed in sync with each other.