It wasn't hard to imagine what the real crucifixion of Christ might have been like if you were anywhere near the populous, working-class neighborhood of Iztapalapa in Mexico City last Friday.
Nothing was left to the imagination in what is one of the world's biggest Passion plays. Holy Week, or Semana Santa, sees the staging of a number of scenes from the Bible on the streets of Iztapalapa, including Palm Sunday and the Resurrection. But none are as dramatic as the reenactment of Good Friday.
An estimated 2 million people descended on Iztapalapa on Friday to witness the 166th annual crucifixion, this year of Diego Villagran, the 18-year-old local playing the role of Jesus.
The sheer number of people taking part in or watching what was well-organized chaos was similar to portrayals of the crucifixion one might have seen in films such as "Ben-Hur" and Mel Gibson’s controversial “The Passion of the Christ.” Babies and young children sat atop their parents' shoulders, crammed into crowded streets and pushed up against police barriers as some of the 4,000 actors in the street play bayed for the blood of "Christ".
Meanwhile, Mexico’s ubiquitous street vendors showed no shyness in taking advantage of the religious event. They were everywhere, flogging sunhats, bottled water and stamps of the face of Jesus, while offering to imprint the faces of those willing to pay five pesos.
The heat of the April sun, combined with the severe water shortages that the borough also experienced over the week, made the setting feel uncomfortably real. When the blood-soaked “Jesus” staggered past, surrounded by a jeering crowd that kept pushing him to the ground and laughing, it was hard to resist the urge to wade in and save him from his violent destiny.