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While most people in this part of the world do also sign up to the now universal (yet somewhat symbolically and biologically confused we’ve always thought…) Easter tradition of a rabbit delivering chocolate eggs, Latin America, with it’s large Catholic population and fascinating history of religious syncretism, remains one of the best places to witness spectacular and colorful observances of the most important festival of the Christian calendar. All across the region passions run high during Semana Santa and thousands of people throng decorated streets to participate in processions of beautiful religious effigies, or pasos as they are known in Spanish.

Here is Dehouche selection of a few of the most interesting Semana Santa celebrations taking place across South America:

Ayacucho, Peru
Peru’s finest Easter celebrations are to be seen in Ayacucho with festivities spanning over ten days however the true highlights are over the Easter weekend itself. The Ayacuchan belief is that there is no sin during this weekend as Jesus is dead but not yet returned, so they seize the opportunity of this momentary lapse in their deity’s moral vigilance to throw themselves with abandon into a non stop party!

Flower artwork on the street of Ayacucho

Saturday begins with the Pascua Toro, a Spanish style running of the bulls, casualties are not uncommon, so we strongly recommend watching from a safe distance! Various events continue at an open air market including food, drink and huge pieces of street artwork made of flowers, coloured sand and lots of glitter. Celebrations continue long into the night with live concerts across town.

Easter Sunday is then welcomed at dawn with the final procession of live bands and a spectacular fireworks display. The statue of the resurrected Jesus is paraded through town, carried by 200 people, and adorned with candles.

It takes 200 people to carry this luminous paso

Chile
All across Chile Easter is celebrated with the Fiesta de Cuasimodo. Not the Hunchback of Notre Dame, (the name actually comes from the Latin beginning of an Easter blessing Quasi modo geniti infantsi) but a festival in which traditionally clad cowboys, huasos, in red, white and blue parade through town waving flags and shouting ¡Viva Cristo Rey! Or “Long live Christ the King!”

¡Viva Cristo Rey!

This stems from the colonial tradition of the cowboys acting as an armed guard for the priest as he would bless the less fortunate over Easter. The annual re-enactment allows those taking part to show off their extraordinary equestrian skills and the breath-taking splendour of their horses. The best celebrations can be seen in small towns around Santiago, especially in Colina. So get on your horse and celebrate Easter Chilean style!

Mompox, Colombia
The colonial town of Santa Cruz de Mompox, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in northern Colombia, also has its own unique twist on Easter. On the eve of Good Friday they hold the Paso Robado procession, where participants march with a band to the San Francisco church to demand entrance by hammering on the doors as well as throwing sticks and stones, so watch your head! Once inside the effigy, or paso, is stolen, and taken to a predetermined location where it is held hostage until 2:00am – thus the term “Paso Robado”. It is then recovered and paraded to the Santo Domingo church where mass is held. The tradition harks back to a competition held in the early colonial era to create the best effigy, which was won by the Franciscan monks. The Augustinian monks disagreed with the decision so at midnight used the same method to break into the church to steal it.

The "stolen" paso

Recife, Brazil
And what’s Easter without a little drama? In the aptly named Novo Jerusalem theatre, the world’s largest open-air theatre, the Passion of Christ is re-enacted over a week. Designed to be a mini replica of Jerusalem made up of nine different stages, the audience literally follow Jesus and the story of his resurrection. Far from a humble religious tableau, the parts are played by famous actors and the performance is renowned for its extravagant lighting and special effects. The purpose-built theatre even has its own hotel so you can literally live the experience and even become an extra in the show. Where else than Brazil could you relive the Passion of Christ alongside celebrity actors, before relaxing on some of the beautiful palm fringed beaches of Pernambuco? Let Dehouche show you how!

paixao cristo

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