Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Latin Americans celebrating Easter with "The Burning of the Jews" (update)

From The Times of Israel:
The world is full of charming Easter traditions, but this isn’t one of them.

A newspaper in Mexico is detailing Sunday’s “burning of the Jews,” an annual tradition in Coita, a small town in the state of Chiapas [Mexico.] As part of the custom, locals spend the middle of their Holy Week making Jewish effigies — a reference to Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus before his crucifixion.

The fake Jews are then displayed for three days in different parts of the town, serving as an example of poor conduct.

They’re ultimately paraded through the streets on Easter Sunday, with local children assigned to stand in front of them and collect money for flammable materials.

The article notes that the tradition differs in Coita, where locals set fire to the effigies on Easter itself, rather than the day before, as in other towns. The burning is followed by a dance, where locals eat a corn treat made with cocoa. The article says the custom “strengthens” the culture of the Zoque, an indigenous people in southern Mexico who were converted to Catholicism.

The ceremony seems to echo, to some extent, the “Running of the Jew” event depicted in Sacha Baron Cohen’s 2006 movie “Borat” — a work of fiction.

The Chiapas Herald takes an uncritical view of the ritual, reporting that it “fosters unity and respect” and “purifies the soul.”
This is not isolated to only Coita or even Mexico.

I see it mentioned as also occurring annually in Quidbo, Colombia.

Ecuador had a similar time-honored tradition, but this webpage laments that "The [Burning of the Jews] in Guayaquil continued well into the twentieth century until the practice of burning stopped because of European migration, which did not properly appreciate this show of our religious folklore."

Burning crosses is also a treasured piece of folksy tradition, isn't it?

UPDATE: a number of people point put that these really seem to be The Burning of Judas.