Easter processions of Popayán


We are standing in the crowd outside the church, almost at the front waiting for the procession to start, when a middle-aged man comes up to us. “Would you like to help us out a bit” he asks the two Danish guys I’m hanging out with. Not really sure what to expect the guys agrees, and push through the crowd and enter the church. I tag along, not really wanting to loose my newly found travel friends and also seeing the opportunity of getting closer to the action.

One of the religious floats

The guys are presented with one of the big religious floats and asked to help carry it for a bit. The one they are asked to help out with just happens to be the heaviest one, at least that’s what we are told: 800kg of religious holiness spread out on 8 pair of shoulders. They start the painstaking journey through the old town of Popayán: “The white city”. The float is carried rapidly for a short stretch, before it’s put on some wooden sticks so they can rest, and then it’s on again. The guys last for a little while (being Scandinavian and taller than the rest of the guys probably didn’t help) before giving in and leaving the rest of the carrying to the professional carriers (someone told me that the assignment of carrying the floats is something that is inherited and has been in some families for centuries, and some of these guys end up with big lumps on their shoulders after many years of carrying, not sure if this is true or not…).

My two Danish friends helping out with a float

I walk along the float for some time, before sneaking away, joining the press accredited photographers, walking back and forth, standing in the middle of the road taking pictures. I manage to blend in for a while, until a woman kindly asks me to step aside, to stand at the sidewalk like the rest of the crowd.

Two of the churches in the old town of Popayan

The Holy Week, the Easter processions of Popayán is one of the oldest traditions in Colombia. The celebration, which celebrates the Passion and the death of Christ with daily processions (from Holy Tuesday to Saturday) through the old city centre, has been performed continuously since the 16th century. The religious floats adorned in gold and jewelry, depicting biblical scenes and characters, are the main attraction but there are also marching bands and musicians playing. The event is huge; people are coming from all over Colombia, and the world, to see the processions, crowding the streets and sidewalks. It’s even filmed and broadcasted on television. Each day the processions start from a different church and follow a slightly different route through town.

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(By the way, most of these pictures are taken with a 50mm, that’s why there’s not many overview photos of the floats, and after all, I find the people more interesting anyways, if you have seen one of the floats, you have pretty much seen them all).

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Guy selling helium balloons on the street

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Guys carrying a religious float

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Jesus on the cross

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