Holy Week: Hispanic Traditions as Ways of Evangelization

In Latin America and Spain Holy week is lived intensely. Hispanics celebrate the passion of the Lord with colorful images and with signs that represent their culture, this ‘religiosidad popular’ is what helps the community accompany the Lord on his way to the cross.Immigrants have brought this rich cultural heritage and popular religiosity to the United States, and these traditions have helped them as paths to express their Catholic faith and as ways of evangelizing their children and communities.

The rich traditions, such as processions, alfombras/carpets, devotions, songs etc., help the community to inculturate the faith. It is with these customs that the people live and express their relationship with God. Pope Francis, in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, has said, “Popular piety enables us to see how the faith, once received, becomes embodied in a culture and is constantly passed on” (123). We can then use these popular pieties to convey the gospel message to future generations.

Here are some popular traditions:

  • Alfombras – Throughout Holy Week, especially on Good Friday, beautiful carpets decorate the streets of the cities. These ‘alfombras’ are made from various materials such as sawdust and salt, which are dyed in different colors, and give way to various figures and drawings that represent a Christian message. The carpets are a true work of art and are used to mark the fourteen Stations of the Cross.
  • Processions – Whether it’s Palm Sunday or Good Friday procession, during Holy Week the streets are filled with pilgrims and expectators (believers and non-believers) who accompany the Lord on his journey to death. The Holy Week processions are a public recognition of Jesus, in addition, these serve as a way of penitent pilgrimage for the faithful.
  • La Dolorosa – In many families there is a special devotion to the suffering mother “La Dolorosa”, who accompanies his son to Calvary. With this devotion the faithful sympathize with the anguish and pain of our Blessed Mother, who walks with his son through la Via Dolorosa.
  • Songs – The songs and hymns of Holy Week set a solemn tone and invite us to meditate on the passion suffered by Jesus Christ. Hymns like “Perdona a tu pueblo Señor/Forgive your people Lord” invite us to implore the mercy of God; and others such as “”My people, what have I done to thee, in which have I offended thee … answer me” make us reflect on the sacrifice and pain endured by Jesus.

It is in these Catholic traditions that many find ways to express the faith and they help the community live a devotional and intensely Holy Week.

Reflection– Take time this week to reflect on these traditions. What other devotions did your family celebrate? How did they help you live your faith? What popular piety has your family continued?

Action – In this Holy Week, attend a procession / viacrucis in your parish.

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