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Americas celebrate Easter


A man said to be possessed by a voodoo spirit sits on a crucifix during a Good Friday pilgrimage to the mount Calvaire Miracle in Ganthier, Haiti, on Friday.

Photo: AP

With their arms raised to the heavens, tens of thousands of Haitians flocked to a craggy hillside to pray and seek renewal in one of the spiritually steeped country’s biggest annual pilgrimages — one of many exuberant expressions of Good Friday devotion across the Americas.

At a hilltop crucifix, some held out passports, pleading for visas, or dog-eared photographs of sick relatives.

Others prayed for a loving relationship or a steady job while carrying beeswax candles and rosary beads.

Hundreds of thousands of people across Latin America and the Caribbean marked the passion of Jesus Christ in a variety of ways on Friday.

Penitents carried thorny branches through the streets of Taxco, Mexico, and the crucifixion was re-enacted in communities, including in the village of San Mateo, north of Mexico City, and in Pirenopolis, Brazil.

In the Bolivian community of Arenal de Cochiraya, people created images of the Passion of Christ in sculptures made of sand. Thousands of candles were lit for an evening ceremony in the Paraguayan farm community of Tanarandy, then carried through the darkened streets by Catholics singing hymns.

The participants in the Haiti ritual in the tiny community of Ganthiers marched along a steep, dusty trail with rocks balanced on their heads. When they reached a precipice, they stood at the edge and hurled the stones to symbolically cast away sins.

“I have too much misery, too many problems. I am praying for my deliverance,” said Martin Normile, a long-unemployed father of two teenage children, as he walked slowly with a large stone on his head.

Delano Demosthenes, a teacher from the town of Carrefour, was among those praying for calm when a UN stabilization mission concludes in the middle of October.

The Good Friday pilgrimage came a day after the UN Security Council voted to end a stabilization operation in Haiti after 13 years, replacing it in October with a smaller mission with police and civilian peacekeepers for an initial period of six months.

“I am praying for a stable, peaceful Haiti. I am worried that when the UN leaves there’s going to be trouble here,” he said at one of the white crosses that line the hillside path.

In the Caribbean nation, the Good Friday ritual mixes elements of Catholic ceremonies and evangelical fervor with Voodoo, or Vodou as preferred by Haitians, a religion that evolved in the 17th century when colonists brought slaves to Haiti from west Africa.

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