Semana Santa

San Felipe, Baja, Mexico

Unlike the Galapogos Islands there is little observable evidence that evolution has ever touched San Felipe during the week known as Semana Santa (Holy Week). This is a time of madness, when excesses have no quota and often the holidays' goal seems to be the execution of the perfect action --one completely devoid of reason and common sense. Unfortunately the one who achieves this perfect act often doesn't survive to enjoy the applause.

Band setting up for Semana SantaSemana Santa attracts vacationers from Mexicali and mainland Mexico, as it is a tradition for revelers to stream lemming-like to the nearest beach during this holiday. Often Spring Break overlaps the time frame, so there can be a real glut of personnel coverging on San Felipe, all seeking the penultimate diversion. The town carefully prepares for this mayhem every year. In fact it looks forward to it because this is the magic week the local vendors and merchants use as a fulcrum to lever their business into the black. Prices pole-vault into the clouds. Queues of people at liquor stores pass bottles and six-packs down their line like volunteer firemen at an MGM hotel blaze.

This year (2005) the town provided music on the Malecón, an English rap medley of such pornographic proportions that local business people, certain the Delegado had no knowledge of the booming lyrics, were determined to enlighten him.

In many towns on the mainland, Semana Santa observes a Good Friday passion of Christ reenactment. A man, often in a tattered robe and sometimes voluntarily submitting himself to a crown of thorns, files through the streets of his town pulling a large wooden cross. Here in San Felipe, on a smaller scale, it remains a tradition. Last Friday a small group of people trailed a young man who turned up Chetumal with his burden. But by far the bulk of the visitors to the town had other plans, which were considerably more festive-minded. A drink of vinegar was the furthest thing from their minds. And it is doubtful that at the end of their celebrating, the young man dragging his icon up Chetumal would have been able to shoulder the full weight of their sins.

In contrast to the silent procession, everything else happening in town happened at full volume. Cars with rolled-down windows boomed and throbbed like cardiacs down the main streets. ATV's, dune buggies and rails seemed to shed their mufflers and howl like werewolves. Street-corner sound systems thumped the air with rug-beating percussions. People broke out in song like sailors on a binge. Police and ambulance sirens sounded like car alarms on steroids. And at night pyrotechnics seemed more satisfactorily heard than seen. Decibels upon decibels.

Yesterday the morning crowds, blowsy and muddled from excessive celebration, committed to the northward exodus and the safety and security of their regular lives. A sea of garbage parted for them and the tight rosary of their vehicles inched away from the arches in an endless novena of bumper-to-bumper penance, the price they had to pay for their pecularly modern observance of Holy Week.

When the last trailer crammed with jet skis and ATV's finally rolled out of town, some local merchants said goodbye to their extra labor and tried to determine if it was all worth it while others simply returned to town after a four day absence and unlocked their doors.

Despite the "Mantengamos Limpio" message,
below is the aftermath of a Holy Week 2005 evening.

Click on any thumbnail to enlarge.

A Few Photos from Semana Santa 2007