Jala and the Passion Play

Jala and the Passion Play

By Dorothy Bell

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 jala1We finally find parking along a street some three blocks from the town square in Jala Jalisco- a small city with under 10,000 inhabitants – well off the tourist radar in between the coastal resort of Puerto Vallarta and the second largest City in Mexico – Guadalajara. It took us 1 1/2 hours to drive from the coast – the traffic was lighter than we expected for the drive into the interior from the coast on Good Friday – one of the major events within the most celebrated holidays in Mexico – Semana Santa – Holy Week.

Jala (pronounced Hala) is well known for its Passion play – the reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This is Jala’s claim to fame; the only other tourist draw being the Ceboruco Volcano an 18 km ride away.

As we parked the car, we spotted “Roman centurions” on horseback with golden helmets and swords dressed in red smocks and we quickly made our way to the main square anticipating the drama we were promised.

jala3Much to our surprise there was a carnival atmosphere awaiting us. Children’s rides, trampolines, Jungle Gyms encircled the square. There were home- made games of chance including a roughly hewed routlette wheel. Young men were throwing balls, shooting air guns and tossing rings for stuffed animals and other prizes.

The “fair” also had a market component; stalls of belts, hats and underwear were set up in the square and the block towards the church. Donuts were floating on bubbles of fat; Pork rinds were sold in plastic bags and beers and Cokes were sold everywhere.

jala4As we approached the church we saw the procession. Three centurions with golden helmets escorted the purple robed Christ. The actors were very serious. The centurions were official and stern and the Christ was solemnly and looked down toward the ground.

Bill and I inadvertently joined the procession as we took pictures – becoming part of the event as the Passion Play marched through the market – past the vendors – past the pork rinds and bras, past the hats sunglasses and trampolines. The procession snaked its way through the plaza to the “jail” where the centurions deposited Christ for all to gawk and jeer. His silver sun visor (or was this a halo Bill?) encircled his brow.

jala5After stopping at this station for an hour, the procession proceeded throughout the day visiting the other stations of the cross, culminating with the tragic ending celebrated throughout Christendom.  

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