I have been working as a documentary photographer off and on in Latin America for over 15 years. Some of my favorite memories and images have come during Holy Week, Semana Santa. I have photographed these incredible expressions of faith on three previous occasions in Central America. First in Antigua, Guatemala, then in Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras, and last in Santiago de Atitlan, Guatemala. All of these were marked by procession all day and night, intricate carpets of flowers laid out on the streets, the dirge-like antique music of marching orchestras, the stations of the cross and other reenactments of the crucifixion and resurrection.
“There were no clouds of incense or day-long processions, no surreal moments with ancient warriors…”
Once, in Antigua, late at night, I was halted at an intersection by an entire company of mounted Roman cavalry and a following platoon of infantry. They stopped at each intersection and the Centurion read aloud Pontius Pilate’s sentence of Christ. Then trumpets were blown, and the Guatemalan Romans marched onward through clouds of incense over streets carpeted with flowers. Even more surreal scenes awaited me some years later in the city of Santiago de Atitlan where an ancient battle was played out before the cathedral between Jesus of Nazareth and Maximon, a shamanic Mayan deity syncretized with Simon Peter.
This Easter Week I found myself in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey, in the State of Nuevo Leon. I went down to the cathedral near the Barrio Antiguo, the old city. There were no huge processions, but citizens gathered in the square and followed the stations of the cross, walking together and expressing their Catholic faith.
There were no clouds of incense or day-long processions, no surreal moments with ancient warriors, but there was a moving and quiet dignity that left me feeling very much happy and at peace. FP
All photos © A. Tonn