Holy Week in El Salvador: Good Friday

This is the third in a series of stories which I am writing during this Holy Week...

Viernes Santo or Holy Friday in El Salvador is a day for processions.  El Salvador is historically Roman Catholic, and cathedrals and churches across the country continue to be the centers from which Holy Friday processions emanate.  Many communities carry on the tradition of creating beautiful carpets in the streets.  Youth groups, church groups and community organizations create designs made from colored salt, sawdust and wood chips.  The designs include images from nature, geometric designs, religious symbols and portraits of beloved saints.

The artists wanted to show the beauty of nature and
a symbol of the ancient cultures in El Salvador - Sonsonate 2018
During the day, communities often walk the Via de las Cruces (the Way of the Cross), following the Roman Catholic tradition of reflecting on 14 moments at the end of Jesus' time on earth,  beginning with Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and concluding with Jesus being laid in the tomb.  Often, the local parish has a statue of Jesus carrying the cross which is mounted on an ornate wooden platform and carried through the streets.  As the pilgrims walk over the carpets, the artwork is honored and destroyed.

The Holy Burial procession will pass over this long path of
palm trees late in the night - Sonsonate 2018
In the evening, some communities walk for long hours, commemorating the Santo Entierro or Holy Burial of Jesus.  Again, carpets are created by different family, community and church groups.  Pilgrims carrying a coffin which holds an image of Jesus.  Processions in the day or evening often include penitents, walking in hooded costumes with pointed hats - often purple during the day and black in the evening.  The costumes harken back to medieval times when repentant believers would often inflict injury upon themselves as a way to atone for their sins and they wished to keep their identities and their spiritual practice hidden from the public eye.

Hundreds of penitents lined accompanied the procession, providing
a secure perimeter for those carrying the statues and
the musical groups - Sonsonate 2018
Communities across El Salvador embrace the Holy Friday processions as cultural and somewhat ecumenical events.  Salvadorans who have the ability to travel by car or to rent a vehicle for their families join international tourists in admiring the carpets, in viewing and photographing the processions, and in enjoying local street foods provided by entrepreneurial vendors.

From swimming shorts to pinwheels to ripe mangoes with
hot sauce - entrepreneurs in the town square - Sonsonate 2018
Candles for the evening:
$2 for the small ones, $3 for the large ones
Sonsonate 2018
Four of us traveled together to Sonsonate to share in the experience of the Holy Friday Procession of the Holy Burial.  We were an eclectic group from the US, Brazil and Columbia.  We arrived in the middle of the afternoon, which was plenty early and plenty hot.  We wandered around the streets surrounding the city's central square, toured the cathedral, ate ice cream, and positioned ourselves on a prime corner from which to view the procession.  We took turns walking a bit.  I re-entered the church during mass and was able to listen to a brief reflection on the last words of Christ.  The cathedral was filled to the brim with faithful people acknowledging with faith and gratitude the great sacrifice Jesus made on this day.  The eyes of many mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers glistened with tears as the statue of Mary was prepared to follow in procession behind her beloved Son.
Inside the cathedral - Sonsonate 2018
As a Lutheran Christian, I have spent many Sundays listening to the proclamation that "we are Easter people."  We don't spend much time pondering the blood on the cross.  We don't spend much time waiting at the tomb.  The empty cross is what we wear around our necks and what we place in the fronts of our churches.  Life won.  But death stings.  Grief is real.  On Friday, grief is real, and it is holy.
In front of the Mayor's office - Sonsonate 2018
Gathering in front of the cathedral - Sonsonate 2018
Waiting - Sonsonate 2018
The beginning of the 5 PM procession - Sonsonate 2018

Some of the crowd - Sonsonate 2018
The final words of Christ - Sonsonate 2018
Replicas of relics from the Crucifixion - Sonsonate 2018
Jesus' Funeral Bier - Sonsonate 2018
Marching band playing a traditional funeral dirge - Sonsonate 2018
Women accompanying the statue of Mary - Sonsonate 2018
Mary, Mary Magdaline and John - Sonsonate 2018

Sonsonate 2018
Sonsonate 2018
Sonsonate 2018
Crunchy meringue dessert - Sonsonate 2018

Holy Week in El Salvador:  Holy Thursday
Holy Week in El Salvador:  Palm Sunday


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