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Passion, and traffic: Holy Week begins in Mexico

March 29, 2010 | 12:03 pm

Passion iztapalapaIt is the start of Semana Santa, or Holy Week, in Mexico, meaning a barrage of traditional Easter festivities and an exodus to Mexico's coasts or resort towns for city slickers with means. Streams of automobiles fled the urban basin over the weekend for popular Semana Santa destinations such as Acapulco or Cuernavaca.

Thursday and Friday are official holidays, and authorities expect more residents to scoot out of town for the four-day weekend. (Like an unwanted holiday hangover, the Monday after Easter is often taken as a holiday as well). Conversely, tourism to Mexico City ticks upward during Holy Week, creating a disorienting state of emptiness in the city -- emptiness with seemingly more vehicular traffic.

For those remaining in town, the municipal government is once again opening up artificial beaches with pools.

By far, the marquee Semana Santa event in Mexico is the Passion held at the Cerro de Estrella in Mexico City's Iztapalapa borough, the most populous in the Federal District. It is considered among the biggest Passion representations in the world, drawing about 2 million visitors, with the biggest crowds showing up for Good Friday, when a local "Jesus" is crucified -- with real nails and real blood. This year will be the 167th Passion held there.

On Sunday, 60,000 people attended Palm Sunday events in Iztapalapa, authorities said. Watch this La Plaza video report by Deborah Bonello on the Passion last year.

For a certain kind of jaded Mexican capitalino, however, the arrival of Semana Santa is not fondly looked upon. Writing in the daily Milenio, Juan Alberto Vazquez lists "What We Hate About Holy Week" (article is in Spanish). One thing he hates:

"That the newscasts, not having any news to share, gives us the same old stories about the beaches, the representation in Iztapalapa, and the same empty papal messages."

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: Palm Sunday in Iztapalapa. Credit: El Universal