Not being a very religious person, I don’t usually observe Good Friday. But, this year I made an exception.
Tañarandy is a small community just outside the city of San Ignacio, Missiones, and very close to where I am now living. It is known as La Tierra de los Irreductibles (Land of the Irreducibles.) The story goes that when San Ignacio was founded as a Jesuit Mission in 1610 a group of indigenous Paraguayans resisted the evangelical teachings and formed a community in Tañarandy.
San Ignacio and specifically Tañarandy are known for having the largest Semana Santa celebration in Paraguay. The festival was started in the early 1990’s and is organized every year by artist Koki Ruiz.
I was very excited about going to the festival this year, now that it was practically in my backyard. I’d heard
about it in the years past but I never got the chance to go. But, on Thursday, the day before, it started raining so intensely it looked like it would never end. Even Friday when I woke up it was gloomy and drizzling all morning. But luckily, Ruiz had commented in a news interview that the show would go on in whatever way possible.
The festival starts as La Procesión de La Dolorosa (Procession of our Lady of Sorrows) leaves the church and heads along the yvaga rapé (emphasis is put on the last syllable) or camino al cielo (path to heaven) which ends at “La Barraca” the property of Ruiz. As the procession makes their journey there are representations of the stations of the cross, where members of the procession, called estacioneros, sing hymns. The path is lit by torches and thousands candles, that are made from orange peels filled with wax, giving the air a faint citrus smell.
As the procession arrives at “La Barraca” more hymns are sung at the last stations of the cross, the crucifixion of Jesus. When Jesus is taken down from the cross the cuadros vivientes (live paintings) of famous religious works of art are revealed.
The live paintings are incredible to see, they transcend any religious connotation and are incredibly beautiful for their sheer artistic value. There is always imitation of The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci, and this year they also added a modern portrayal of the painting. In all there were 10 live paintings. (But, sadly I couldn’t get close enough to get a picture of the original Last Supper)
My favorite was also a more modern representation. I’m pretty sure it was of Mary Magdalene holding Jesus after he was crucified, I could be wrong, either way it was beautiful.
Ruiz has stated that this was the last year of the cuadros vivientes and next year he will be focusing on baroque art creations. He added an example to the show this year to give everyone a sneak peek. It was a massive altar that was decorated with corn, pumpkins and other gourds.
The dreary weather may have kept the festival from reaching its expected attendance of over 40,000 people, but, there were still thousands of visitors, Paraguayan and foreigners alike. The silver lining of the bad weather and the smaller crowds is I got a really good view of the whole performance, even if it did make my shoes a little dirty.