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:
7 thoughts on “THE BURNING OF JUDAS, A MEXICAN CUSTOM FOR HOLY SATURDAY”
I wonder if the scapegoating and effigy burning of Jesus might not have an unfortunate anti semitic context. To blame Judas is not entirely fair, since he was only completing a foretold prophecy. It might be better to add that we still deny and crucify Christ one way or another every day. The event appears to scapegoat and unintentionally foment racism. Mexico could observe other, more positive customs found in the Bible.
Well asking Mexico to change observances will never fly. But the folklore article I linked in my text does discuss and deny that it is anti-semitic.
Of course, the Catholic colonizers arrived at a time of religious fanaticism and blamed Jews for Christ’s death. The church has tried to deal with that in the last few decades of Papal pronouncements and evangelicals are among the most avid supporters of Israel. I have never seen any comments by Mexican hierarchy.
Good reply Jim. Something as politically incorrect as the burning of a Jew who indirectly facilitated the crucifixion of my Lord should be addressed by the politicos. I would like to interview practicing Jewish people here for their take on this. Maybe it is a non issue.
Dear Jim–what a lovely time you must have had, along with everyone else–great pictures of the fire works and of you and the Judas figure. Thank you for continuing to share your enthusiasm and advenures. I would love to go to Mexico, especially the capital, but that will have to wait for a while.
Thanks Phoebe. So nice to hear from people who have traveled with me and not forgotten Mexico.
Hi Jim, Your “guided” tours of the wonders in Mexico have been incredible. The architecture in Mexico City’s Polanco District breathtaking! And poor Judas….I guess he’s getting what he earned…….even after all these decades. It’s no wonder you have adopted this other culture………and your weather???? Here in Rochester this morning it was still 40 degrees with the promise of 34 later this week. So enjoy Mexico and thanks for keeping us in the loop.
Thanks for following my blog Angie & John, sorry about your weather. I open the D&C weather daily, not to gloat really, but to lament. I hope it warms up before my return in May, though it did snow one May 6. Cheers.