Semana Santa em São Miguel

[Guest post by Meagan Burns in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.] Holy Week, or as it’s known in Mexico “Semana Santa,” is the week leading up to Easter, and almost nowhere in Mexico is it recognized with such reverence, tradition and awe as in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. Visitors come from around the world to experience the intense emotion of the observances of the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. It’s an incredible time to visit San Miguel because of the processions, altars and historical re-enactments, and even though I have seen the events in past years, I saw it differently this year as I tried to capture the colorful week in my sketchbook. I live in San Miguel, so I knew ahead of time where I wanted to position myself, so each day I’d arrive early to sketch out the scene before the crowds surrounded me, and then fall into a café to finish the sketch. It’s the crowds that hold the energy that I always want to capture – and I will continue to practice drawing the crowds and capturing the world around me.

Beginning at midnight, two weeks before Easter, a procession begins from the neighboring town of Atotonilco, with thousands of people carrying on their shoulders a life-sized figure of the beaten and bloody Christ, El Señor de la Columna, “Our Lord of the Column” (top image). They are greeted at sunrise by purple and white paper flowers adorning every home in the town, among a chorus of fireworks, church bells, drums and hymns. This arrival officially begins the Semana Santa events.

Palm Sunday 

Palm Sunday is one week before Easter, and there is an air of celebration as people remember Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, celebrated by carrying a robed Christ on a donkey through the tourist-lined streets. The streets are filled with vendors selling crafts made of palm leaves, the homes are decorated with flowers and red fabrics, and chamomile flowers line the streets, creating an uplifting aroma and pleasant celebration.

Good Friday

Of all the events of Holy Week, Good Friday is the most solemn, the most awe-inspiring and the most profound, as it is the Trial of Christ and the Encounter with His Mother, and you can feel the people’s religion alive in the streets all around you, no matter how many times you have seen it. Local men dressed as Roman soldiers drive out and whip the back of a loinclothed man who represents Christ, to the sound of mournful church bells.

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday is strangely quiet after a week of procession and pageantry, and ends with a light-hearted spectacle of the Burning of Judas at high noon. Brightly colored, 6ft-high papier-mâché dolls are strung on ropes across from the church, and are meant to represent the hated betrayer of Christ, Judas, but nowadays they are more comical characters and effigies of unpopular politicians and other local figures. There was clearly one very popular Judas hanging from the ropes, who was met with wild applause and cheers as he was ceremoniously blown to bits.

Low Sunday

Semana Santa is officially over, and one week after Easter, there’s a colorful and musical procession in the streets with a lively and healthy-looking Christ, reminding us that Jesus has returned, spring is upon us, and we’re ready to do it all over again. There is always a reason for a celebration in the colorful streets of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico!

Originally from Chicago, Meagan Burns is an administrator for the USk San Miguel de Allende regional chapter, and a workshop organizer. You can see more her sketches on Instagram e a Facebook


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