Devotion and drama at the living Via Crucis

This post is also available in: Spanish

Easter is a time of great significance in Panama when the locals go to mass on Good Friday when traditional processions are often held. Perhaps one of the most moving spectacles happens in the small town of Pesé, Herrera province, where every year a dramatization of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ takes place.

Apart from the staging of the Via Crucis, there will be processions and masses in the many Catholic churches across the country. The procession at the San Miguel Arcangel Church in Calidonia, Panama City, starts at 5:00 p.m. after their Easter Sunday mass, which starts at 4:00 p.m.

More than 200 people have participated in this drama since 1954 and it is an event worth seeing, as it is reminiscent of similar ones in Spain and Mexico. Panama’s version first started with the arrival of a new priest, Jose Luis Angulo, to the San Jose de Pesé Parish.

The priest noticed that locals were natural actors and proposed the staging of the Via Crucis for Easter week. The rest is history. The procession has now become a tradition in the Herrera province that attracts hundreds of pilgrims every year.

The reenactment is moving, especially the crucifixion of Jesus which takes place on a hill nearby the town center, and during the different Stations of the Cross; the public observes the drama that enfolds before their eyes, completely mesmerized.

The Balboa Union Church will have a service at 10:00 a.m. on Easter Sunday follow by an Easter Egg Hunt around 11:00 a.m. Bring some food or drinks. Everyone is welcome.

Many families through generations have participated in the dramatizations, not only as actors, but also as stage builders, make-up artists and sound engineers.

Similar kinds of dramatizations of the Passion of the Christ take place in other parts of the country such as Arraijan, 30 minutes from Panama City, Atalaya and Santiago (Veraguas province) and Chiriquí province.

The staging of the Way to the Cross is a medieval Spanish tradition that was brought to the Americas by the conquistadors. It was believed that participating in the dramatization of the Via Crucis atones for a person’s sins.

It is difficult to find rooms in Pesé, but accommodations can be found in Chitré City, less than an hour away.

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