The streets of Iztapalapa were very hot and crowded for the Passion Play. Parts of the Play had been going on all week; now it was Good Friday, the day when actors would perform the crucifixion and death of Jesus. It was my first time at a Passion Play, Diary, and it wasn’t what I expected.
First, it felt like a carnival and I was sorry that Lucero had stayed behind. There was music, and a ferris wheel to ride on, and lots of street stalls selling food and sweets, or holy medals, pictures, and rugs. Children ran laughing and playing. Fathers put babies up on their shoulders. But there were also police with plastic riot shields lining the streets, trying to hold back the crowd. I was a little scared, especially when Carlos told me that Iztapalapa was a very poor part of the city, with bad drinking water and a lot of crime. Gabriella scolded him for saying that.
“But we’ll be safe enough today,” he added.
“If we don’t get crushed like an egg,” complained Gabriella, trying hard to find a place to stand and watch the Play. In time, we found a spot with a view of the road up which the Play’s procession would walk.
It was very warm and I grew tired of standing in one place. After waiting forever, there came the sounds of something happening. Men dressed like Roman soldiers, in bright tunics and leather armor, rode by on sweating horses. Loudspeakers carried the sound of a whip lashing, a woman crying, a man groaning. A group of people carrying real wooden crosses stumbled by; I knew some of them were people who had special things to pray for, like a sick family member, or an old wrong they wanted to be forgiven for. I saw a boy walking on his knees, his face twisted in pain. Then I saw the man playing Jesus come, bent over by his heavy cross, a crown of thorns on his head and blood on his face. People were calling out and weeping in the crowd. Mary, the mother of Jesus, walked with a small group of men and women, all crying and praying to God for help.
For a moment, I was not watching a Play but standing in the holy city where Jesus died. My head was spinning and my heart ached. I wanted to cry out, too! Then I heard a sound in the air, so strange, so modern…
It was helicopters! Two of them hovered over a clear space above a hill, their doors open, people leaning out of them.
“They are reporters, TV crews,” explained Carlos, “here to film the crucifixion on Cerro de la Estrella, the Hill of the Star.”
The crowd rushed forward, hoping for a better look. I heard a woman cry out, “He has fallen down! Jesus has fallen!” People moaned. For a moment, there was sorrow and passion in my heart, Diary! Then I looked around at the ferris wheel and the police. I heard the helicopters stirring the air.
“I want to go home,” I told Gabriella, tugging on her sleeve. She was straining to see through the crowd, but turned as soon as I spoke. She gazed at me for a moment.
“We’re going. Now.” She patted Carlos and jerked her head. “Estamos dejando.”
It was hard walking against the crowds of people, like swimming against a strong wave of water in the ocean. But we finally made it to quieter streets, where the procession had passed long ago, and to Carlos’ beat-up bakery truck. The noise was behind us, like a soccer game in a stadium. I blinked at the daylight, and the stones in the street, and a pigeon flying overhead.
“This is real,” I whispered, “and that was not.” It made me feel better to say it.
“That was like a movie, chica,” soothed Gabriella.“The blood was pretend, so were the soldiers and the women crying…”
“Not the crosses those men carried or the people around us crying…” I pointed out.
“You cry sometimes at a movie, si?” said Gabriella. “Even though you know it’s just actors telling a story.”
“This was too sad a story,” I replied.
“Well, don’t forget it has a happy ending,” added Carlos. “That’s why we celebrate Easter!”
I made a small noise and looked out the window.