Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sacred and Profane

I started this post to describe some of the contradictions between the religious and secular in Mexico. Then a friend asked about Holy week customs in Mexico and I found this link which describes the most significant observance in Mexico:
Semana Santa in Iztapalapa
Clearly this takes things to an extreme, but similar, less real, less bloody observances are found all over Mexico.

My original article continues below.

Holy Week is a time of fasting, prayer and charity according to a banner in the church where we attended a secular chamber music concert today. Zacatecas schedules it's Cultural Festival at this time every year. It's a great showcase for local, national and international talent which attracts visitors from all over Mexico and around the world partly because kids are out of school and parents are on holiday from work. There's everything from heavy metal to ballet and beyond including a street fair with music and dancing surrounded by endless lines of booths selling trinkets and every class of edible goodies imaginable.

There's a sharp contrast between Mexico today and Spain of the 1960s where you awoke to somber music blaring from loudspeakers at dawn, all secular events were prohibited and nightly processions of penitents blocked the streets carrying heavy religious figures on their backs and shoulders. In cities like Seville and Jerez, Spain, several cofradias hold processions from their parishes each night during Holy Week. In Mexico, for the most part, the processions are limited to Holy Thursday.

I'm wondering if this dichotomy doesn't have its roots in Benito Juarez' nationalizing Church property and turning churches, convents and monasteries into museums, hotels and theaters to eliminate the Church's participation in government.

The Catholic Church enjoys complete religious freedom and other religions are not discriminated against in any way. Even though there are lots of Catholic symbols in public everywhere and all Catholic holidays are national holidays, non Catholics don't seem to be offended. Perhaps this is what the framers of the US Constitution had in mind. No national church, no politicization of religion, religious freedom for all.

In cities and beaches all over Mexico, people are partying. In the South, there are areas that look more like Mardi Gras or Carnaval than Holy Week.

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