We weren’t really prepared for the intense demonstrations of faith that are an integral part of the Good Friday procession in Quito. We had heard that the procession is an enormous event. All through the streets of the Centro Historico, thousands of people slowly march in front of the enormous glass enclosed figure of Jesus del Gran Poder, a representation of Jesus carrying his cross on the way to being crucified. The procession in Quito is one of the largest in the world and hundreds of churches send their penitents to take part.
It is a little overwhelming to see the commitment that these people undertake. Each group will have one, or more, ‘Jesus’ carrying a cross, with a crown of thorns, and invariably with chained ankles. Some of these crosses are enormous tree trunks or telephone poles and require assistants to help lift it on and off the shoulder each time there is a stop in the procession – which occurs frequently. Barefoot, over cobbled streets, and up and down the hills of Quito – this is a show of faith that is to be respected regardless of your religious leanings.
Sprinkled in are people walking with cacti crosses strapped to their bare backs, complete with their blood dripping down. Arms tied out to form a cross, the physical pain to the shoulders must be intense. Women and children take part, with many of the women playing the role of Veronica – the woman who gave Jesus a cloth to wipe his face on his procession to be crucified. For the rest of the marchers, they are dressed in purple robes and tall pointed hoods and walk silently throughout. Bands play religious music and help inspire the marchers.
All in all it was an amazing experience, but we decided not to wait the requisite hours to see Jesus del Gran Poder – especially since we had three kiddos under the age of 9 with us! It was another great reminder of how lucky we are in the foreign service to have these chances to see cultural events up close and in person.