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Panama lives the passion of Christ
On Easter weekend in Panama the drama of the passion of christ, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ comes alive in different towns of the interior and in certain communities of the Capital City, where it is the tradition to attend passion plays to celebrate Easter. Visitors and locals flock to these events.
Last year, in the Casco Antiguo, which is a world heritage site and has six churches, over 48,000 people came together on Easter Thursday and Friday, the majority of them with the intention to visit seven churches, a popular custom which symbolizes the faithful who accompanied Jesus during his passion.
Religious tourism increases during Easter in the Azuero region, according to Merielis Martinez, provincial coordinator of the Panama Tourism Authority (ATP). She pointed out that in the Central provinces the economic impact is high because of the increase of visitors, who participate in the religious events.
In the districts of Aguadulce, La Pintada and Antón, in the Cocle province, the communities of Río de Jesús and Montijo, in the Veraguas province, and the districts of Pese and Parita, in the Herrera province plays are staged in the evening after the Eucharist. El Cocal of Las Tablas, Guarare and La Villa de Los Santos also reenact dramas of the Sacred Scriptures, which narrate The Way of the Cross that culminates with Jesus’ crucifixion.
Since 1965, tourists and residents of these communities have witnessed these plays every year, which incorporate new actors who tell the story contained in 55 pages of dialogue, where fathers, sons and even grandchildren take part.
Priest Emilio González of the San Atanasio Parish of La Villa de Los Santos, says that Easter is a time for reflection, prayer and family coexistence. There, on Easter Thursday, a mass of the Supper of the Lord, the Silent procession (men only) and the Worship of the Most Holy, take place; while the Holy Way of the Cross is on Good Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and at 7:00 p.m. the Sermon of the Seven Words.
The Good Friday procession is from 10:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. (early hours) of Holy Saturday. That day at 8:00 p.m. the Solitude of Maria procession takes place and at 9:00 p.m. the Easter Solemn Vigil. On Easter Sunday at 9:00 a.m. is the Eucharist and at 5:00 p.m. the Prayer of the Resurrected, which is the last commemorative act.
The priest points out that these religious rituals attract people from the capital and travelers from Europe who like religious culture.
Some local tourists opt to go to the Pese District, in the Herrera province, where the tradition is a live Way of the Cross, which is one of the religious tourist attractions of the region.
The place most visited by locals on Holy Saturday is Iguana Island, while foreigners often come to the country with a detailed map of routes of places they want to see which they have made one or two years in advance of their travels.