Easter in Mexico: Rarámuri Semana Santa, Tewerichic

Easter in Mexico is one of the most important and most celebrated holidays, next to Christmas. Although Easter in Mexico is a popular time for local Mexicans to vacation with their families as it falls around the same time as spring break, it is also a time of religious observance, since it is a heavily Catholic country.

Mexicans celebrate several traditions during this time. There are countless rites and customs that could be strange or extreme for some, as is the case of Holy Week in colonial towns like Taxco. However, all the festivities are a consequence of the rich history of the country in which there is a syncretism between religion and the local customs of each region. Proof of this syncretism is what happens with the Rarámuri population of Chihuahua and their Tewerichic celebration.

In the heart of the territory of Chihuahua is the impressive landscape of the Barrancas del Cobre. Scattered among its cracks and abysses live the Rarámuris (or Tarahumara, name given to them because of the area they inhabit), members of one of the few indigenous peoples in Mexico has preserved their culture through isolation and resistance.

True to their colorful and pacifist traditions, the Rarámuri have made a sort of pact by which they agree to live with the rest of the people during Holy Week in a celebration known as Tewerichic. The week-long event, beginning on Palm Sunday and concluding with a celebration of the start of the harvest season, includes traditional dances, rites, music, prayers, food, and tesgüino to represent the conflict between good and evil. Join us today as we explore the Rarámuri’s Tewerichic celebrations: one of Mexico’s Easter traditions that is like no other in the world. 

Tewerichic is a Rarámuri celebration that focuses on the struggle between good and evil and is inspired by both Catholicism and the Rarámuri religion, with pleas for good fortune, health, a good harvest, and rain.

During Tewerichic the main activity is centered on the conflict that reigns between God and the devil. According to Rarámuri belief, God is weak and easily vulnerable because the devil has forced him to drink tesgüino (a sacred alcoholic drink) in unbelievable amounts. In turn, the Rarámuri people and all who attend this event must fulfill the mission of protecting God and his wife until he returns to his good condition, until he fully recovers. Otherwise, they believe, the devil would destroy them and, with them, the entire world.

To display this struggle, the community is divided into two groups: the "Pharisees" or "Cabochis", allies of the devil, and the "captains and soldiers" who defend God. Dances, masses, rites, and prayers follow one another in an explosion that is more pagan than Catholic, although all of it full of religious symbols; men, women, young people, girls, and boys wear colorful typical costumes to dance to the beat of flutes and drums in one of the two sides.

 

Tewerichic, is not in itself the name of the Rarámuri celebration, however, it became popular with this name because it is the place where the comonorirawachi is celebrated, which means "when we walk in a circle" because during the processions and dances each church is surrounded. In fact, most of the celebration is spent going around each church in reverent and continuous procession, an intentional pattern meant to protect and ward off evil.

The dance takes place over three days and is so exhaustive that they cool off by drinking tesgüino. For the Tarahumara, the astringent, homemade corn beer is a sacred social lubricant, and during Easter week this beverage becomes a communal practice; tesgúino is distributed troughout to keep warm, energetic, and fraternal. During this corn beer communion, in place of "happy Easter," the Rarámuri will say to one another "bosasa", which means "fill up, be satisfied, be contented."

 

Tewerichic begins on Palm Sunday with the blessing of the palms at night when a group goes up a hill to dance and later light a large bonfire, the same thing happens in three other hills to mark the four cardinal points. The festivity finally ends on Resurrection Sunday with the “burning of judas” where a large straw judas is burned, considered a grand celebration of the triumph of good, and coincides with the beginning of a new agricultural cycle.

At the end, the Rarámuri people return along the abrupt paths of the mountains, to get lost in the mist, neighbor of the sky. Until God needs their help again… next year. The Easter celebrations of the Rarámuri are a big draw for tourists. By custom, participants will drink, dance, drum, and carouse for as long as the tesgüino holds out.

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So, what do you think? Did you enjoy learning about this celebration as much as we did? Was Tewerichic something you were familiar with? And about the Rarámuris? Would you like to see more of these articles? What else would you like us to highlight? Let us know, we are always looking for ideas on cultural practices to highlight! Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our mailing list where we share our weekly blog and provide first looks into our offers and new products!

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2 comments

Robert Bessel

Thank you for introducing my family to Tewerichic. We are grateful for every opportunity to learn about the people and traditions beyond our western european-centered experiences. There is so much to experience!

Gloria Mata Pennington

Thank you for this informative article. Blessings to all this Semana Santa, especially to the indigenous people who keep their culture alive.

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