Holy Week Ritual of the Raramuri People

Holy Week or Semana Santa is the most sacred time of the year for the Raramuri; it is very extravagant and the ceremony with the most Christian/Catholic using images, symbols and traditions dating back to the Spanish Jesuit missionaries.  Semana Santa  is a spring festival  “to renew the strength of Father Sun, so he can nourish his people and … fight off the evil influences of the annoyer, that is the devil or outsiders “ (Raramuir Designs 2011) .The Raramuri call it When We Walk in Circles because their religion procession walks around and around the church. During the celebrations the Raramuri place pine tree branches showing the way to the various processions similar to the palm fronds that were laid for Jesus on Palm Sunday. The Raramuri who participate in the procession are divided into two groups the soldiers and the Pharisees (the Jews that were out to kill Jesus); these two groups come from the Jesuit and Franciscan Passion Plays. “Each group has captains that lead them, ‘tenaches’ that carry saint’s images and ‘pascoleros’ who participate in the ‘pascol’ dance, wearing bells around their ankles and dancing to the sound of the violins and flutes” (Raramuri Designs 2011).   Bells are very prominent in Catholic worship, but certainly not drums, flutes and guitars.   The Pharisees cover themselves in white clay paint and  “arm themselves with lances so as to do mock battles with soldiers, who are the upholders of tradition” (People of the Edge 1997).  ( The Tarahumara who are so opposed to influence by Christianity paint themselves with black paint to signify their opposition to outside world influences on their tribe.) The Raramuri believe that the universe is layered with God and his wife at the top and the Devil at the bottom (similar to heaven and hell).  The Raramuri are products of God and his wife, the Virgin Mary are taken from the Christian tradition but that’s where it stops – they are related to Father Sun and Mother Moon and are not the deities that one find in Catholicism – this God gets drunk, the Virgin Mary has sex with the Devil (who plays a mean guitar)– it is only during Holy Week that the Devil and God can defeat one another and it takes the Raramuri to save God (and ultimately their people) from destruction.  And Jesus turning the wine into water and everyone got drunk at the party in Christian tradition is transformed into turning corn into tesguino and there is still the huge party with everyone getting drunk. (Sheridan and Parezo 1996)

The notion of asking God for forgiveness of sin during this time  is expressed in dancing and speeches made by the captain general  starting on Maudy Thursday but forgiveness is meant for the Raramuri as asking for God to bless them during the next year in everything they do.


People of the edge : Voyaging through the Tarahumara heartland. Orange:Chapman University.


Raramuri Design – About the Tarahumara.  Internet document.  Accessed April 24, 2013. http://www.raramuridesign.com/raramuri–tarahumara.html


Sheridan Thomas and Nancy Parezo, The Paths of Life.  Tucson: University of Arizona Press. P 144-162.

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