Palm Sunday in the city
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
Palm Sunday represents the entrance of Jesus the Nazarene into Jerusalem and the fulfilling of a prophecy. This year, Palm Sunday will be celebrated on April 24 and includes two processions. The first leaves from El Calvario heading toward San Francisco Church and the second from Parque Juárez to the Parroquia.
Carlos Eugenio Ruiz started participating in programs at San Francisco Church when he was 19 years old, and for 11 years in a row he has portrayed Jesus in the procession organized by the priest from the San Francisco Church. According to Ruiz, the procession is a way to remember the prophecy that Jesus would arrive in Jerusalem not on a horse, but riding a donkey. “As God’s son, he could have arrived on an elephant, a horse or any other animal, but he did not. He decided to arrive riding a donkey, which was the transportation used by the slaves at that time,” commented Ruiz. He also said that the people knew the prophecy and for that reason when he arrived they started throwing fabrics, palm fronds (which represent victory and honor) and other plants in his path and exclaiming “Hosanna!” (“Save us!”).
For the past 20 years the procession has left from El Calvario, a church at the top of calle San Francisco, heading toward San Francisco Church. It lasts for about 10 minutes and concludes with a mass at 10:30am. This reenactment is headed by three acolytes, Jesus the Nazarene (portrayed by Carlos), the 12 apostles, people wearing costumes and the general public. In el Centro, near the churches, street vendors offer intricately woven palm fronds in the shape of crosses, flowers or stars. These palms are blessed during the mass and are placed in homes to protect them from evil.
Ruiz is a 35-year-old teacher, and his participation in this procession started 12 years ago, when he was walking through the halls of San Francisco Church and was chosen by Father Francisco Soria. “I was at the church and Father Francisco invited me to portray Jesus Christ. I was very happy and excited because I had been selected, but at the same time I was worried. I did not have a beard or the clothes; I did not have anything. Luckily for me, some other members from the church helped me. They made me a fake beard, they lent me some clothes and got me a wig. It was long and black; I did not know where they got the wig, but in my excitement I did not care and I wore it,” said Ruiz. For his fifth appearance in the procession, Carlos decided to buy material and design a new costume. “I was about to get married and I did not have money. I do not know how I did it, but God helped me. I even bought some sandals and I dignified the image of God our Lord,” he remarked. Ruiz undertakes a spiritual preparation during the year leading up to the procession. “I try my best, and I talk to Jesus not just to ask him favors but to thank him for help I receive. I go to mass and read the Bible.”
The same day, at about 11am, a second procession leaves from Parque Juárez heading to the Parroquia along calle Sollano, which is adorned with flowers and palms. This procession is headed by the parish priest and behind him some people carry an image of Jesus riding a donkey, followed by parishioners.