The Institute for Social and Cultural Research got 100's of great pictures of Holy Week in Benque. Another amazing week of culture in Benque.
"As part of our pilot project to document Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH), our team was present in Benque for the various activities of Holy Week. A very special thank you to the Mr. David Ruiz, the organizing committee and the community for allowing us this privilege."
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Crucifixion of Jesus Christ re-enacted in Benque Viejo Del Carmen
The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ has been retold countlessly through biblical literature. During Holy Week, movies reenacting his death on Calvary are aired across the local and international media. On Good Friday in Benque Viejo del Carmen, devout Christians relive the experience by dramatizing Jesus’ final hours before being put to death at the hands of the Romans. News Five’s Duane Moody was there and has the following feature.
Duane Moody, Reporting
In many Central American countries, the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ has become one of the most religious and spiritual activities to be performed. In Benque Viejo del Carmen in the west, residents in collaboration with the House of Culture and spiritual leaders engage in a week of activities leading up to the main event on Good Friday. The tradition, which is the highlight of the Liturgical Calendar of Catholic Churches, has been ongoing for the past twenty-two years and is used to reinforce Christianity within the populace.
David Ruiz, Coordinator, Holy Week Committee
“The celebration as such is an event for Benque. It started out that way; it was never meant to become an attraction…that’s what it has evolved into. As you have witnessed, it is a community affair that attracts the young and the old and we are very intent in attracting the young especially because we seek that as a promise for the continuity of the tradition.”
People from across the country gathered to witness the journey through the final hours of the Son of God. The reenactment was so vivid and evoked many emotions as Benque residents took on the prominent characters within the scriptures.
At nine a.m., the dramatization began where Jesus was taken before Pontius Pilot for judgment. Despite pleas made by his mother, his fate was sealed and he was given the death penalty. This was followed by a procession along thoroughfares in Benque with Jesus carrying the cross on which he was later to be symbolically crucified.
Lorena Melgar, Assistant Coordinator, Passion Drama
“We do at least a month of preparation way before. We have the scripts and we invite different groups. We have different youth groups and we invite them to join. Whosoever feels that they have this passion for acting comes along. You want to show people what we believe, you want to make it real and it happens the same way for Jesus. You can see it in their expressions. We do it over and over and we need people to see the suffering. We need people to be conscious that this is a suffering that even though it happened years ago, it is still here. Jesus said do this in memory of me and we want to bring it out for them. It is basically a meditation on the Stations of the Cross, each way of the cross, each suffering of Jesus on the way to Calvary. So what we do is bring it live for the people, make the people aware of the Christian faith is and what we believe in.”
….A total of fourteen blocks leading up to a hill within the church compound; Jesus along with two thieves were to be nailed to crosses and killed. It was an arduous trek for the person chosen to take on the respective roles.
Twenty year old Luis Mendez, who competed along with his sister in season two of Duets and who, in previous years, had also held other roles in the Passion Drama, was chosen as the top character.
Mendez was physically whipped and pushed to the ground by soldiers as he carried the heavy wooden cross. This brought the emotions of onlookers to boiling point as the prisoners were mercilessly treated. It is unbelievable the extent of the production and the hours of training invested. For Mendez, endurance was key and, in an act of penance, he gave up his feet.
Luis Mendez, Actor
“As I played Jesus Christ, it wasn’t easy. You guys know me more as like a musician and acting and different place. So this was a different area, an area of sacrifice, about faith, growing and letting other young men and young women know about Christ; know about his passion for us. Two years ago I was the bad guy…I was the priest, the Pharisees; the big ones with the long robes and the long sleeves condemning Jesus and telling him that today’s your day and you are a blasphemer and we are the ones with the truth. Now I play the actual truth so it was like a mirror. It is a lot of pain Mister Duane. My feet, very exhausted. I never knew the pain that Jesus Christ felt because his pain is much more than that, maybe a hundred times over. But just my feet and the thorns and the soldiers…they actually whipped me and I told them don’t be afraid and that’s what made the show great.”
According to the Scriptures, Jesus took his last breath at three p.m. In Benque, it marks the start of services held at the church. This is followed by “La Procesión del Santo Entierro,” a funeral procession.
Three caskets—one representing Jesus, his mother, Mary, and Saint Joseph—are carried through the streets in a four-and-a-half-hour procession and Jesus is symbolically laid to rest. Up to forty pallbearers are needed to carry the casket of Jesus.
Jimmy Leslie, Coordinator
“The procession themselves go back to the 1980’s and now the drama itself has been going on for twenty-two years and it was passed on to the young people in 2008. We took it over and we have been leading the process. We will be taking three floats in solemn processions through the streets of Benque which are marked by sawdust carpets that are laid out on the streets. We will be taking the landa of the Santo Entierro with forty young men which we call the brotherhood of El Santo Entierro; they are the ones responsible of bringing out the landa from the church out into the streets and take it in solemn procession through the main streets of Benque Viejo. We have the float of Mary which will be taken by women in solemn process and that of St. Joseph which will be taken by young men.”
The procession is led through streets marked by “alfombras” or carpets. Made primarily out of sawdust, the highly expensive artwork takes hours to create. Hundreds of persons gather as early as five a.m. and use rice, beans and even coffee to craft the carpets of a religious nature for the funeral procession.
Josefina Salas, Carpet Designer
“I started doing this fourteen years ago, in 2001, because it was a promise I did to the lord that I will make his alfombras because he has saved me from many dangers and I have received many grace from him also so that makes we feel good to him; to give something of my sacrifice for him to receive.”
“The uniqueness of the whole thing is that Benque has managed to maintain these events and we have enriched and made these more adaptable and more popular to the times. We see that one of the biggest things have been the traditions which are threatened by all these modern things.”
“The intangible culture…”
The week of activities in the west is a unique cultural experience that evidently brought persons from all walks of life together to celebrate life. Duane Moody for News Five.