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¡Viva la Fiesta! Mexican Traditions of Celebration: The Birth and Death of Christ

Bancroft Gallery Exhibit Oct. 2017 - Feb. 2018

Venerated Images of Christ

Just as images of Blessed Mary are venerated throughout Mexico, so are those of her son, Jesus Christ. Statues of the Crucified Christ, which are often said to show signs of life, become equally important in developing local traditions. They are most visited during the Lenten season, the forty days preceding Easter Sunday. The faithful conduct pilgrimages to the shrines of miraculous images like the Christ at Chalma, in Mexico State, which, according to legend, was discovered in a nearby cave. The celebrations at Chalma, which take place on the first Friday of Lent, include traditional danzas (dances) performed as the pilgrims enter the church as a form of thanksgiving. Other images include the Cristo Renovado, a self-renewing image of Christ housed in the Discalced Carmelite convent in Mexico City.


Christmas preparations in Mexico begin on December 9 and last until the presentation of the Child Jesus (February 2). During these celebrations, Mexicans decorate their homes with nacimientos (nativity scenes), nochebuenas (poinsettias), and, more recently, Christmas trees and Santa Claus. In small cities and rural communities traditional pastorelas (improvised shepherds’ plays that focus on the interactions between good and evil) and posadas (inns) can still be found. The latter recreate Mary’s and Joseph’s search for a place to stay the night in Bethlehem and include a procession of child actors or a nativity scene throughout the community. Once they arrive at a designated home, the group splits in two—one goes inside and the rest remain outside—and the traditional songs asking for a room in the inn is sung. After the outside group is allowed to enter, the host family provides them with traditional food and drink and a piñata, originally meant to represent the seven deadly sins, is broken.


The Birth of Christ

M. A. de la C.

Pastorela en dos actos, 1828

[A Shepherds’ Play in Two Acts]


Santos Peregrinos (BANC PIC 2010.025--PIC Cu30)


Antonio Vanegas Arroyo and José Guadalupe Posada, Las nueve jornadas de los santos peregrinos, [undated]

[The Nine Days of the Pilgrim Saints]

BANC PIC 2010.025--PIC, Box 1:Cu30

José Guadalupe Posada

Nueve versos para los nueve días de jornadas, 1911

[Nine Verses for the Nine Days of Pilgrimage]

BANC PIC 2010.025--B, Box 5:GP-23

Manuel Romero de Terreros

México virreinal. Acuarelas de Nueva España, 1925

[Viceregal Mexico: Sketches of New Spain]

308x R813.m


Jesús C. Romero

Nuestras posadas, 1952

[Our Posadas]

F1222.88 R624


Vicente T. Mendoza and Virginia R. R. de Mendoza

Folklore de San Pedro Piedra Gorda, Zacatecas, 1952

[Folklore from San Pedro Piedra Gorda, Zacatecas]

f F1381.M4


Museo Nacional de Artes e Industrias Populares

Posadas, Navidad y Reyes, 1952

[Posadas, Christmas, and Epiphany]

F1219.7 M347


Antonio Sotomayor

[Posadas], [undated]

BANC PIC 1987.001--B, 3:16


Artes de México, No. 81

“El arte tradicional del Nacimiento”

“The Traditional Art of the Nativity Scene”

f F1219.7 A6 New Series, No. 81


Rafael Moya

El mesías redentor. Pastorela popular con cantos, 2007

[The Redeeming Messiah: A Popular Shepherds’ Play in Song]

p PQ7296.A1 M47 2007


Artemio Rodríguez

Pastorela: The Defeat of Grandfather Devil, 2010

[Pastorela. La derrota del abuelo diablo]

pf NE546.R54 P37 2010

The Crucifixion of Christ

Alfonso Alberto de Velasco

Exaltacion de la Divina Misericordia en la milagrosa renovacion de la soberana imagen de Christo Sr. Nro. Crucificado, 1776

[Exaltation of the Divine Mercy of the Miraculous Renovation of the Sovereign Image of Our Lord, Christ Crucified]

F1206.V33 1776


Alfonso Alberto de Velasco

Exaltacion de la Divina Misericordia en la milagrosa renovacion de la soberana imágen de Christo Señor Nuestro Crucificado, 1807

[Exaltation of the Divine Mercy of the Miraculous Renovation of the Sovereign Image of Our Lord, Christ Crucified]

F1206.V33 1807


Joaquín Sardó

Relacion historica y moral de la portentosa imagen de N. Sr. Jesucristo crucificado, aparecida en una de las cuevas de San Miguel de Chalma, 1810

[Moral and Historical Account of the Marvelous Image of Our Crucified Lord Jesus Christ that Appeared in a Cave in San Miguel de Chalma]



José Guadalupe Posada

Verdadera imagen del Sr. de Chalma, 1910

[True Image of the Lord of Chalma]

BANC PIC 2010.025--B, Box 6:R-4


José Guadalupe Posada

Explicación de la seña y demás ceremonias de la Semana Santa, [undated]

[Explanation of the Sign and Other Holy Week Ceremonies]

BANC PIC 2010.025--PIC, 2:Cu34


Elizabeth Hastings

A Tourist's Guide to Holidays and Festivals in Mexico, [1948]

[Guía de turistas para las fiestas y festividades de México]



María Rodríguez-Shadow

El pueblo del Señor: Las fiestas y peregrinaciones de Chalma, 2000

[The Town of the Lord: The Celebrations and Pilgrimages of Chalma]

p F1219.1 C39 R631 2000