Cultural Differences reflected on Easter Holiday Traditions

Apr 2, 2014 by Rita Pizarro

April is here and with it the pastel colors, baby chicks and Easter bunnies, and baskets with colorful eggs filled with candy correct?

Not if you live in Mexico. Actually, most kids have never seen or heard of the Easter Bunny. In Mexico, Easter week is called “Semana Santa” or Holy week, the closer you are to the center of the country the more traditional people you will find where Easter is all about Christ’s death and subsequent resurrection. Forty days before Easter Sunday is the start of the tradition with “Miercoles de Ceniza” or Ash Wednesday followed by what is called “Cuaresma” or Lent. This is an invitation to a change of life and to forgive and become more spiritual and closer to God. It is related to the 40 days Christ spent in the Desert, the 40 days of Moses in the mountain and the 40 years the Jews spent in their travels through the desert, also related to the biblical meaning of the number 40, meaning change and new times. It is considered an opportunity to have a new beginning and a change in our lives. Throughout this 40 days there will be many religious manifestations of faith by the Mexican people, including people walking on their knees to see the Virgin of Guadalupe, this is the most adored Mexican representation of the mother of God represented in darker skin. She appeared to a Mexican Native of humble origin called Juan Diego in times of the Spanish Colony, she called to him asking for a place of worship for her Son. Juan Diego went to the highest priest who, after a long wait, received him but didn’t believe him and asked him for a signal. When Juan Diego returned, the Virgin asked him to go to the top of the hill and pick  the flowers that were there. It was December 12, in that time of the year there are no flowers on the dry hills but without hesitation Juan Diego climbed to the top, showing his faith. Once there he found himself in a paradise surrounded by beautiful flowers, he collected some of them in his mantle and went back to the highest priest dropping  the cloth and saying to him that the flowers were the sign from the Virgin. In this cloth lay the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the same we can still see today in the “Basilica the Guadalupe” the church that was built just below the hill where she first appeared.  The image of the Virgin of Guadalupe has become a sign that unites Mexicans as a nation more than any flag or government ever has. Even on September 16th, 1810, Independence Day for Mexico,  it was the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe that united people to fight for freedom. Today this image it can be seen in cars, inside of homes, niches on the side of the road, churches, key chains, billfolds, figurines, T-shirts etc…

The religious meaning of Easter is just a token of the differences between Mexico and USA culturally. Where, instead of colorful chicks and candies, we see people walking for miles carrying crosses. We see giant reenactments  of the crucifixion, sometimes with hundreds of thousands of people attending them, where children see bloody actors with thorny crowns and bloody hands and feet rather than actors in fluffy costumes trying to look like giant rabbits (not sure which one is scariest?). And instead of a day full of candy they have 40 days of repentance and abstinence, culminating of course in the joyous celebration of the resurrection of Christ. Easter Sunday in Mexico does include lots of Mexican food and big family gatherings, after the proper visit to church and a walk through the streets of the town with the image of Christ alive and between us.

This is a small reflection of how even Love is perceived differently, and in this regard the words aren’t enough in English to even describe the difference, since Love has 3 different words in Spanish and only one in English. Even though as a whole the English language has many more words than the Spanish language, it just has strangely less words when it comes to feelings and particularly Love!

Either way, in Mexico and a lot of Latin America, ‘Love’ is to feel intense pain inside, how so? It’s in the culture, a culture of sacrifice, intense feelings and drama, without it the feeling wouldn’t be intense enough to be really called Love. There is a very popular song that says: “To care for someone is not the same as loving someone. Caring for someone is enjoying, Loving is suffering; he who loves gives up his life”. This is just a small example and a reflection of the big dramatic perception of Love. Love songs, new and old, are just a token of the deep feelings, the enveloping dramas, the unending passions and the acceptance of pain and suffering that go together with intense caring for someone and the sacrifice that accompanies the deep and rich Latin American Culture where, rather than pastel pinks you will find rich bleeding crimson reds and intense hues not only of colors but of feelings, tastes, sounds, and aromas where all your senses can be felt richer. When you go to a family gathering and you hear everyone talking loudly at the same time, don’t think it’s a heated argument, that is just the normal course of a family gathering where everyone just seems a bit more intense like the flavor of chili powder and Mole, the scent of incense and marigolds in a temple or church or the sounds of the traditional dancers drums that you can feel in your stomach. There is so much to be discovered when you explore some cultural differences and go beyond the surface to discover what is within the people of Mexico.

Also, in all of Mexico, Easter week is a major holiday. Children are excused from schools for two weeks. Many government agencies are closed, and the beaches in Puerto Peñasco receive more visitors than any other week in the entire year! So, if you want to come down for Easter, prepare to find a little bit of crowds and a lot of Latin families. Book ahead, as many times booking are 100% on this week.

Enjoy the beautiful Spring weather and see you at the Beach!

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