Semana Santa (Holy Week) processions in Latin America are a breathtaking mix of piety and carnival. Silent processions of penitents wearing masks over their faces moving from church to church through streetscapes packed with people talking on cell phones and eating cotton candy.
In Taxco Mexico where the processions begin somewhere around 10 pm and last until 3 or 4 in morning, Encruzados carry on their shoulders 100 pound bundles of zarza canes with all of the thorns left on, Animas in bare feet pull heavy chains attached to their ankles over rough cobblestone streets, and Flagelentes carry large wooden crosses, periodically stopping to whip their backs with steel spike barbed ropes. Meanwhile life goes on all around them.
Quetario's procession happens on Good Friday. Here hooded penitents called Nazarenos wearing the long gowns with high coned hats usually associated with the Ku Klux Klan, move soundlessly through the streets lined with onlookers.
In Cusco, the atmosphere is more sedate as befits a major city. The processions are showered with flowers. The Easter morning sunrise procession has hundreds of penitents from all walks of life joining the march upward for the service in the shadow of Inca ruins.