Venezuela 07 Apr 2015 00:00
Caracas is touched by faith and devotion to a leader that requires no election bar love and unity
As a part of the Christian celebrations that take place in Venezuela during Holy Week, there’s one in Caracas called “El Nazareno de San Pablo” (The Nazarene of Saint Paul), the most popular of the processions made in honor of the image of Christ bearing the cross. The celebration took place in downtown Caracas on 1 April 2015 and attracted thousands of people.
Whatever the political storms to hit Venezuela since 1998, this procession has consistently drawn some of the country’s largest numbers of participants. In spite of the socio-economic crisis now plaguing Venezuelans, both their devotion to this tradition and their religious identity in general remain strong. Whatever the effects of Chavismo, these traditions have overcome the many other transformations their lives have undergone in this era.
This festival’s popularity dates to an old legend that a miracle saved thousands of people from a terrible disease. As the plague carried off thousands of lives, Holy Week arrived, and with it, several processions of different “Nazarenos” carrying the cross through various cities around the country. In the church of San Pablo in downtown Caracas, a wooden Christ was taken to the streets as it did each year. Suddenly, he got tangled in a lemon tree. When the lemons fell, people started eating them, and those who were sick began to heal. Word quickly spread, and more people came to eat the lemons from the miraculous lemon tree. Since then, thousands of people all over the country come to the procession that occurs every Wednesday of Holy Week. Most of the parishioners go dressed in purple, carrying crosses and a crown of thorns. Some choose to express their devotion by walking barefoot down the path as an offer or payment for a promise.
Downtown Caracas celebrates in many ways and is flooded with colors portraying the different aspects of Venezuelans’ religious idiosyncrasy. Peddlers, among others, take advantage of the festivity to do a bustling business selling candles, incense, purple robes and other religious items. Everyone participates in a different way, from those who join the procession to kids and elders selling merchandise used by the parishioners involved in the ceremony.
The experience embraces a symphony of colors, scents, and sounds. The melody of a church organ meets the crying of the youngsters; the murmur of the prayers meets the discourse of the priest; purple robes, wooden crosses and yellow palm leafs dance to the scent of orchids and incense. From early morning to late at night, the “normal routine” of the booming capital pauses before these outpourings of Christian faith and devotion. Indeed, Caracas is a city of multiple faces. Amidst their convoluted lives, Caraqueños (people from Caracas) still seek the love and unity that these days are harder to come by. Indeed, the Wednesday of the Holy Week is hardly the only time that Caraqueños take to the streets from dawn ‘til dusk.