Christ’s Passion in San Miguel de Allende
By Jesús Aguado
The last hours of Christ’s life are enacted during Holy Week during the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) in various neighborhoods in San Miguel. In Atotonilco, the Via Crucis on Good Friday has become a tradition that begins the day before.
Atotonilco is located on the road to Dolores Hidalgo, where the Santuario (shrine) of Jesus the Nazarene is located. The shrine has a strong religious connection with San Miguel and was appointed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 2008.
The reenactment starts on Holy Thursday, March 24, at 8pm with a mass. An actor portraying Jesus reenacts the moment when he washed the apostles’ feet and, later, a staging of the Last Supper is performed in an arcade in front of the church. After the supper, Christ goes to a public garden in the community to pray and there is arrested by Roman soldiers after Judas Iscariot’s betrayal. The reenactment ends at approximately 9:30pm.
On Good Friday, March 25, at noon (it is advisable to arrive earlier), the reenactment of the Passion continues with Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate in the forecourt of the Santuario. After Christ is condemned to die, he is taken to a different stage where he is flogged, with his clothes on, as many times as he can stand. A few minutes later, his clothes are taken off and the flogging continues. The bloodied Christ is taken down from the stage and publicly mocked as a “king” and a crown of thorns is placed on his head. He is given a stick to be used as a scepter. At the end of this staging, Christ is made to take up the cross and the Via Crucis begins.
The march to Calvary is held in the main streets of the community. Thirteen of the 14 stations of the cross are marked by altars, and at every station Father Fernando Manríquez prays. The reenactment ends with a staged crucifixion of Christ, who is tied to a cross between the two thieves. The actors stay on the crosses for half an hour. At 4pm a Holy Burial is reenacted in the main streets of the neighborhood.
More Via Crucis
In other neighborhoods, such as fraccionamiento Insurgentes and colonia San Luis Rey, the Via Crucis is also reenacted, as well as in Soria, a community located between San Miguel and Comonfort.
In colonia San Luis Rey, there is a hill that seemed perfect for depicting the crucifixion of Christ, and residents talked to the priest of the church of Cristo Rey to propose a reenactment of the Passion of Christ. After the priest agreed, don José Merced Ramírez, a carpenter, built a cross of Durango pine measuring five and half meters high and two meters wide. This cross originally weighed 70 kilos, but as time passed, the cross lost its natural resins and now it weighs 60 kilos. This Via Crucis starts at 9am.
To get to colonia San Luis Rey, you can take a bus from Plaza de la Soledad in front of el Oratorio. The fare is five pesos, and the trip takes from 20–25 minutes. The usual taxi fare from Centro is 40 pesos.
The Via Crucis at fraccionamiento Insurgentes is relatively new—only five years old. It departs from the church of Nuestra Madre Santísima de la Luz and runs through the streets of José Francisco Landeta, Fray Bernardo de Cosín, and Ignacio Ramírez, to finally return to the church. It starts at 9am.
Soria is a picturesque town located in the municipality of Comonfort, 10 minutes this side of Celaya. The Via Crucis has been enacted there for the last 50 years. The ceremony starts on Good Friday at 1pm with the representation of Jesus’s trial before Pontius Pilate. The Via Crucis passes through the streets of Eusebio González, Asunción, and Órganos and ends at the soccer field, where the crucifixion is held.
To get to Soria, take the road to Celaya until it meets with the Comonfort-Celaya road. Take the left to Comonfort, and a few meters away is the entrance to Soria. It is advisable to get there between 11:30am and 12pm to find a good spot.
Reenacting the Via Crucis is a Good Friday tradition in many parts of Mexico, a prayerful meditation on Christ’s suffering and death. The most famous reenactment takes place in the neighborhood of Iztapalapa in the southern part of Mexico City. It was begun in 1843 when an epidemic swept through the population.
The 14 Stations of the Cross
1. Christ is condemned to death
2. Christ carries the cross
3. The first fall
4. Meeting with his mother
5. Simon of Cyrene helps carry the cross
6. Veronica wipes Christ’s face with a cloth
7. The second fall
8. Encounter with the women of Jerusalem
9. The third fall
10. Jesus is stripped of his garments
11. The crucifixion
12. Christ dies on the cross
13. His body is taken down from the cross
14. The body is laid in the tomb
Public transportation to Atotonilco leaves every hour from Calzada de la Luz. The fare is 10 pesos. Buses from Atotonilco to San Miguel leave every hour from a block away from the Santuario.
Visitors also can take a Flecha Amarilla bus from the bus station for 10 pesos. They must get off the bus at El Cortijo, cross the road and walk for about 10 minutes to get to the church. A cab does not charge more than 100 pesos from the historic center to Atotonilco, but we advise agreeing on the price with the driver beforehand.