CARIBE

Holy Week in the Caribbean: between the sacred and the profane

AUTHOR: Xavier Avila

Any time is good to travel and to know Colombia. If you want to have an encounter with its culture and traditions, Holy Week in the Caribbean will make you live a special experience.

Prendimiento procession in Sabanalarga, Atlántico
Tufts in the procession of the Prendimiento in Sabanalarga, Atlántico

These 6 destinations are a perfect reflection of the fervor of Holy Week in the Caribbean and without further ado let’s start.

1) MOMPOX, BOLÍVAR

The central event for the momposinos is Holy Week, a tradition of more than 400 years, where the city is transformed. Those who live outside arrive and everything is decorated to give way to the solemn processions that adorn the streets.

Exit of the great step of the Church San Francisco, Holy Thursday in Mompox
Holy Thursday in Mompox

In Mompox, pious men called the Nazarenes load the images in the processions, wear a blue robe surrounded by a cord wound in 33 turns, which symbolize the age of Christ and adorned with 5 tassels representing their 5 wounds.

Procession of Holy Week in the Caribbean

All the processions are beautiful, they have images made by the same momposinos and they are accompanied by musical marches that make the soul of those who listen to them vibrate.

Procession in Mompox

AT THE MOMENT OF PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO MOMPOX, PLEASE NOTE:

✅ Book your hotel or hostel with time.

✅ Wear comfortable and fresh clothes, the agglomeration raises the temperature.

✅ Eat layer cheese and lemon candy.

✅ Visit the city’s museums and visit its 7 churches.

✅ Listen to the life stories of the Nazarenes.

✅ Go to the churches in the morning, watch how they arrange the steps and know the beliefs of the inhabitants of this magical place.

Immaculate Mompox Square

Finally, keep in mind that in the squares of Mompox the nights serve as a social setting, there are concerts, recitals and you can discover very good restaurants.

 
-> If you want to know how to get there and what to do in Mompox, click here and get to know this travel guide.

2) SABANALARGA, ATLÁNTICO

With a tradition of more than 270 years, this town located between Cartagena and Barranquilla, celebrates Holy Week with profane elements mixed in its 9 processions and other acts of religiosity.

Men carrying Jesus on their back
Jesus Nazareno Procession

The processions recreate each of the events of the passion of Christ and include elements that come from the profane, for example in the procession of Palm Sunday, the image is mounted on a real donkey.

Sculpture of Jesus mounted on a donkey

In the procession of Holy Wednesday Jesus goes with the cross on his back accompanied by a beautiful march called the Tears of Mary. On Good Friday almost 10,000 people gather in the main square for the Sermon of the 7 words and start the procession.

To visit Sabanalarga is to reconnect with history, it is to live Holy Week in the Caribbean with characters that characterize popular traditions in those days. Reaching your place is entering a space where incense and life stories will dazzle you.

Centurions guarding the Sepulcher
Centurions guarding the Sepulcher

AT THE MOMENT OF PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO SABANALARGA PLEASE NOTE:

✅ The epicenter of the processions is the San Antonio de Padua temple.

✅ Eat the sweets prepared in the homes of Sabanalarga.

✅ Visit La Peña, a small village on the banks of the Guájaro reservoir. Enjoy a mojarra parrot and its landscape.

The sweets are made with milk, guandu, papaya, yucca, yam, mango and plums, a delight.

3) CIÉNAGA DE ORO, CÓRDOBA

32 km from Montería, located in the middle of Sinú, is this warm and peaceful municipality. There Holy Week is a tradition of more than 200 years and was recently included in the National Heritage List.

Nazarenes loading procession step
Passage of the Jews

The scenes of passion are represented in life-size and polychrome wood figures; carried by penitential freighters, who wear colorful tunics according to each occasion.

Holy Week kids in Ciénaga de Oro
Thursday of sorrows with Holy Week kids

On Good Friday the ceremonial of greater concurrence is realized, the Holy Sepulcher, from early hours of the morning the town lives the agony of the divine inmate. Through the streets the captain of the Roman squadron is proclaiming the death of the Lord.

Nazarenes loading procession step
The Sayones

AT THE MOMENT OF PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO CIÉNAGA DE ORO PLEASE NOTE:

✅ Taste the cassava, a product made from cassava, an icon of traditional cuisine.

✅ Taste the hicotea, the catfish, the garapacho, the nicknames of cheese and heart of palm, water of dough, caraqueña and the king of desserts Mongo-mongo.

Gratitude for the photographs to the Permanent Board of Holy Week of Ciénaga de Oro – Silvio Burgos.

4) TOLÚ, SUCRE

On the shores of the Caribbean Sea is Santiago de Tolú and one of the oldest foundations that celebrates Holy Week in the Caribbean for more than 450 years.

Church of Tolú

The center of the popular celebration revolves around the Brotherhood of the Nazarenes of Tolú, men who during the days of the celebration exercise the order and control of the population.

For lovers of ancestral traditions and rituals in Tolú you will find the right place to enjoy this type of event.

Man helping to consecrate a child

Here is the consecration of Nazarenes, an act that consists of dressing in a white skirt and cord or rope braided with hair or horsehair around the thorax, the older ones help the children to turn the cord.

Man helping to consecrate a child

From the church comes the image of Jesus who weighs more than 3 tons and is carried by a large number of Nazarenes in the first blocks of the route to be delivered to the crowd that simulates when the Lord was delivered to the town for his death.

Procession seen from a balcony

AT THE MOMENT OF PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO TOLÚ TAKE INTO ACCOUNT:

✅ Tolú is a tourist point of the Caribbean there are hotels and hostels of different categories.

✅ Nearby is the San Bernardo archipelago and the beaches of Coveñas.

✅ Walk the streets in one of the typical vehicles of the place called pedicabs.

Photographs of Tolú: Wiliam Andres Zarza Garcia.

@wiliamzarzafoto

5) SAN DIEGO, CESAR

San Diego de las Flores is a paradise, the tranquility of its streets, the friendliness of its people and the exuberance of its landscapes surrounded by mountains make it the paradise on earth.

Rickshaw

Holy Week in the Caribbean here is pride for its inhabitants and focuses on the experience of the Brotherhood of Jesus Nazarene, men and women who organize religious acts with great care and deep devotion.

Sculpture of Jesus the Nazarene

It is fascinating to get to San Diego and see how all the people come together around this celebration that serves as social cohesion and identity of the place, the history of San Diego is synonymous with the experience of the Brotherhood.

AT THE TIME OF PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO SAN DIEGO, PLEASE NOTE:

✅ San Diego is 20 minutes from Valledupar, from there a taxi takes you for $5,000 COP.

✅ Try the delicious charcoal-grilled cheese arepas and stuffed with meat, iguana or chicken.

✅ Nearby is Los Tupes, a beautiful town with multicolored houses and streets.

6) VALENCIA DE JESÚS, CESAR

It is one of the oldest towns of Cesar, founded twice and one of the most important cities of the government of Santa Marta in the colony.

Church of Valencia de Jesús

The chapel surprises everyone with its beauty, painted white it welcomes the participants and its interior allows to know the history of colonial art in the region.

Nazarenes carrying sculpture of Christ

On Holy Thursday there are several acts of great tradition such as the procession of the penitents at noon, where the Nazarenes walk barefoot on the street with a black tunic up to their ankles and their faces covered.

Sculpture of Jesus, ready to go out in the procession of the Greater Week
Sculpture of Jesus, ready to go out in the procession of the Greater Week

And just as special are the acts of Good Friday, which take place inside the temple with the breaking of the veil and the descent of the crucified one who starts the procession of the Holy Burial.

AT THE MOMENT OF PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO VALENCIA DE JESÚS PLEASE NOTE:

✅ Valencia is very close to Valledupar, a city where you can stay.

✅ In Valledupar, attend Holy Tuesday to celebrate Santo Ecce Homo, one of the most representative events of Holy Week in the Caribbean.

The Caribbean has multiple scenarios to discover the richness of its history and its people expressed in these religious acts that mix the sacred and the profane, because here religion is nourished by the joy and creativity of the Caribbean being.

Child contemplating the procession

There are many destinations to explore during Holy Week in the Caribbean, this is just a small sample because there are also the towns of Tenerife and Guamal in Magdalena, Tubará and Santo Tomas.

WHAT MORE TO VISIT IN THE COLOMBIAN CARIBBEAN DURING A HOLY WEEK?

Sitionuevo, Punta Gallinas, Capurganá, Parque Tayrona, Archipiélago de San Bernardo, Ciénaga, Bomba, Usiacurí, San Benito Abad, San Onofre and Rincón del Mar.

Xavier Avila

Xavier Avila

Abogado e historiador, miembro de número de la Academia de Historia de Barranquilla y del Centro de Historia de Sabanalarga, director de la Casa de la Cultura de Sabanalarga (2014-2016) y gestor cultural.

Amante de la fotografía como arte complementario de la historia.

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