Procession of the Christ of Izalco
It is one of the most important traditions of the historic town of Izalco, located in western El Salvador. This religious procession is one of the longest in Western culture and it can last up to 17 hours. It only takes place in this city, considered a melting pot of traditions inherited from the Spanish conquest and the native inhabitants.
This procession is unique in its style, it is of great importance to locals With Mayan background, and in recent years it has capture the interest of local and foreign tourists who come to appreciate this unique event. It is celebrated every Holy Thursday from 1 pm, and it lasts all night and morning, ending the next day on sunrise.
The procession is led by the image of Christ of Nazareth, and followed by 12 crucified Christs, in order to have 13, the mystical number in some pre-Hispanic cultures. The procession is also accompanied by the image of San Nicolas de Tolentino, popularly known as “San Nicolasito” among natives. This image dates back to about 400 years. In recent years, the images of the Virgin Dolorosa, La Verónica and San Juan had been added to this event.
The main image is known as the Nazarene, a tall Jesus carrying the cross dating from the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century. Although there is no precise data, there are indications that this beautiful image was donated by a wealthy native american named Serapio Pinto, who gave it to the Brotherhood of Jesus of Nazareth.
The statue is mounted on an impressive “Anda” (carrying altar) carved in 1970 by cabinetmaker Atilio Cruz, who developed an ingenious mechanism that allows “El Nazareno” to turn both sides in order to present itself better to spectators and the homes who have request it. The Anda weighs approximately 1.200 pounds, plus an additional 400 of flower arrangements, decorations and the Nazarene image.
To support this tremendous weight throughout the day, (including all the secondary images) 800 carriers are needed. The main image is transported by a group of 40 carriers.
The secondary images of Christs are from the following “cofradias”:
1. Santa Barbara
2. Our Lady of Bethlehem
3. Our Lady of Sorrows
4. San Juan Bautista
5. Virgen de Los Remedios
6. Santa Veracruz (lost in a fire in 1876 and redone in early last century)
7. San Sebastian
8. San Gregorio Magno
9. St. Teresa of Jesus
10. Santa Lucia
11. Santa Rosa de Lima
12. San Nicolas de Tolentino
The oldest of the Christs is from the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Bethlehem, dating to the mid-1600, with a “medieval carving style” according to Carlos Leiva, one of the leading historians at Izalco and an expert in religious imagery.
Each image of Christ Crucified is adorned with corozo and huiscoyol palms, which have sacrificial and penitent meaning for the locals with Mayan ancestry. This meaning is probably due to effort and risk involved in cutting this palms, since the plants have sharp thorns.
The procession departs from the Chapel of Jesus of Nazareth, and the journey is accompanied by the music of local composers, including Anacleto Solano and his son Ricardo, who composed the procession marches in the middle of the last century. Traditional pre-Hispanic whistles and drums are used.
Where to stay and eat:
In Izalco there are several hotels and hostels like El Chele Hotel and La Casona de los Vega. Please remember to make reservations, one month in advance, during the high season (Holy Week and Christmas)
Eating is not a problem. There are several restaurants. Don’t forget to visit the famous pupusódromo Izalco, where you may have traditional pupusas at affordable prices.
How to get there:
By car take the road to Santa Ana (Pan-American highway) and at the overpass known as the “Polyhedron”, take the road to Sonsonate. Detour to Izalco is at kilometer 57. It takes about one hour to get there.
If going by bus, there are several options. From the West terminal in San Salvador, you may board “special” route 205 for US$ 1.30 (1 hour and 15 minutes), or regular route 205 for US$ 0.75 (1 hour and 45 minutes). From Sonsonate take Route 53 for US$ 0.23 cents (15 minutes) and from Santa Ana your Cerro Verde take 209 for US$ 0.70 (1 ½ hours). All buses will stop at the diversion to Izalco. From there you may take a motorcycle taxi for US$ 0.35.
You can find more information on the Tourism Unit of the Municipality of Izalco in
Facebook: www.facebook.com / comunicacionesizalco
Phone: 2429-8000, extension 102
Address: First Avenue South, Assumption sand, between Avenue and Union Street Roberto Carias, Izalco, Sonsonate.
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