La Quema de Judas, or the Burning of Judas, is an ancient Mexican custom brought by the Spanish colonizers very early in colonial history. The custom is practiced in other Catholic countries and is a scapegoating ritual commemorating Judas’ betrayal of Christ. It takes place on Sábado de Gloria or Holy Saturday, before Easter Sunday, usually in public squares. Large papier maché figures of Judas, now represented as a devil, formerly burned, are now almost always blasted apart by fireworks in Mexico. For more history of the custom see this article on Mexican folk art.
In my adopted city of Cuernavaca, Morelos, the practice occurs in church courtyards and public plazas. But Restaurant/Hotel Gusto has turned it into an annual social event quite popular with both Mexicans and the expat community. Owner Ruth Geary commissions an enormous papier maché Judas, ten meters high this year, and has it packed with explosives. Reserved guests spill out of the restaurant to tables mounted on the lawn to accommodate the crowd. This year a colorful musical group from Mexico City entertained as well. The gourmet menu does not change except that dishes usually made right at the table aren’t available. The waiters were hard pressed to serve the over-capacity crowd.
At 9 pm the Judas figure was blasted by a devastating explosion that left only the frame remaining. Afterward fireworks lit up the sky above the garden, the photographers put their cameras away, and clients returned to their dining and drinking while serenaded by the talented Mexican musicians. It is always a delightful evening and the event is so popular that reservations are likely to reach capacity earlier than ever next year. http://gustocuernavaca.com.mx/en/. Below are photos from this year’s celebration. Thanks Ruth Geary for holding such wonderful social events and helping build a sense of community in our city.
A fitting finale:
For more information and photos of Gusto, see my blog post from 2014: