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Judgment of Christ. In fact, chances are excellent that unless they are among the “special guests,” the media, the waves of police, the volunteer medics, the actors or the anonymous purple-robed Nazarenes who drag crosses barefoot through the city streets, they will see absolutely nothing that happens on stage in Iztapalapa’ s main plaza. Instead they will hear a saccharine voice announce over the loudspeaker that Iztapalapa welcomes the world with open arms, welcomes “the glorious” Mexican army for the first time ever, and wants you all to know that in Iztapalapa the actors “are more than actors; they are conservators of tradition. And in Iztapalapa, tradition is law.” For the most part, the Church is content to provide the symbols and keep its distance, muttering in private about paganism, folklore, and matters far beyond its control. Wounded, bleeding polychrome statues of Christ are one thing; Iztapalapa is something else. More radical critics, such as Tabasco Jesuit and human rights activist Francisco Goitia, criticize the Passion Plays as mere spectacles that ignore the Gospel’s messages of social justice. The weighty packet of information prepared by the Delegacion puts its own spin on Semana Santa: “More than its liturgical significance, the representation of Semana Santa in Iztapalapa is a live demonstration of the best form of reproducing tradition through transmission generation after generation. And it is a demonstrationbefore the whole worldof the pride in being from Iztapalapa.” For its part of the bargain, the Delegacion licenses the pressprimarily legions of photographers from Mexico City newspapers who arrive at the Cerro with the kind of cameras that look as if they could launch missiles halfway across the continentand itinerant vendors from Oaxaca and Guerrero, armed with pottery and religious medallions. An “Organizing Committee” dominated by men from two or three families from the original eight barrios of pre-Hispanic Iztapalapa handles just about everything else, including the selection of actors. Mariangela Rodriguez, a Mexican anthropologist who followed the festivities for several years, has described the behind-thescenes posturing at the time of the “selection of virgins,” who arrive in heels, matching gold bracelets and necklaces, and flirtatious smiles. In the presence of Rodriguez, the organizing committee decided to “democratize” the selection process, the results of which were met with a certain skepticism. This year Christ is Mario Flores Galicia, a 28-year-old mechanic chosen because “his physical appearance coincides with the image that the public has of the Redeemer.” Roughly translated, Jesus must look as if he walked off a Leonardo da Vinci canvas and onto the streets of Iztapalapa; Mary is a 20-year-old secretary and student named Cristina Vivian Garduno who is encased in blue velvet. We catch up with them on Holy Thursday when we join the procession of Apostles, Virgins of Soledad, Handmaidens of Herod and THE CHURCH IS CONTENT TO PROVIDE THE SYMBOLS AND KEEP ITS DISTANCE, MUTTERING IN PRIVATE ABOUT PAGANISM, FOLKLORE, AND MATTERS FAR BEYOND ITS CONTROL. Roman soldiers on horseback as they wend their way through the heart of Iztapalapa. The streets are closed to traffic to allow the centurionssome of whom hide under their helmets the most creative punk hairdos this side of New Yorkto pass by. Just outside the procession route, the streets belong to the vendors. For one peso you can have an image of Jesus stamped on your face; five pesos buys a pair of hologram medallions of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Jesus, or the Santo Milo de Atocha. Five pesos is also the going price for a “telescopio,” empty juice containers stacked together and fitted with mirrors, a hopeless bit of consumer fraud intended to delude the innocent into thinking he has just purchased himself a front-row view of the action. The kind of circus act that has all but disappeared in the wake of television manages to show up in, Iztapalapa: “Two pesos! Two pesos! For two pesos you can see some really big snakes.” Win .ch brings us to Mexico City’s incipient political campaign. In July, for the first time ever, residents of the capitol will elect their own mayor, and there are those who can’t pass up a chance to do a little political proselytizing during Semana Santa. The candidate from is Alfredo del Mazo, a former presidential wannabe, who has .been hiding in the political recycling bin in recent years. Del Mazo manages to have himself photographed in his black leather jacket \(standard dress for next to Jesus and Mary during a Semana Santa rehearsal. Later he sends an army of Priista Youth with bottled water \(“Courtesy the thirsty. The National Action Party well, bringing their own brand of bottled water. Their candidate is an acerbic wouldbe intellectual from the Yucatan, a former party president of the PAN named Carlos Castillo Peraza, who shows his folksy ways by sporting a baseball cap and singing boleros in the Iztapalapa market. The man who may or may not be the current front-runnerdepending on which poll you readavoids the Semana Santa scene, perhaps because he publicly announced his atheism during a previous campaign. But Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, the two-time opposition presidential candidate and current mayoral candidate of the PRD \(Party of the crosses to bear. He is the son of Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico’s most popular president, the man most often credited with creating the political system that is now imploding. We leave the vendors and re-join the procession. Just a few blocks from the plaza the buildings give way to cinderblocks, tin roofs, and the sweet stink of sewage. Everywhere there are toddlers perched on shoulders and crowds perched on rooftops. From time to time we find ourselves marching next to Judas, a government economist whose theatrical performances \(“Soy un miserable! Soy un pleaser for the past five years and whose coy references to globalization, local tradition and “that other Judas,” with the big ears who sold Mexico like a traitor, make him a favorite with the press. The following morning, the festivities begin again. The whole world has come to Iztapalapa, or if not the whole world, at 30 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MAY 9, 1997 .10.000.<