CATEMACO, Veracruz – Every year, on the first Friday of March, Catemaco, Veracruz receives millions of visitors who come in search of cleansing and healing ceremonies performed by the “brujos” (sorcerers) of the region.
During the first minutes of Friday, in the Cerro del Mono Blanco, the “brujos” hold a black mass, in which they invoke dark forces and grant them power to health and good fortune to those requesting it.
Historian Salvador Herrera García explained that the mystical ceremony dates back to the pre-hispanic era when shamans and doctors cured ailments using herbs. They dedicated the first Friday of the third month of the year to renewing their supernatural powers.
“It is a festival with pre-hispanic roots, where people would ask for special abilities through pacts with the devil, who at that time was called Tezcatlipoca,” Herrera García said.
The black mass ceremony begins when the “brujos” trace a pentagram on the ground. This symbol represents wisdom in the dark arts.
“They also make a bonfire and sing and dance around it to conjure dark forces,” the expert said.
When the Spanish arrived in Mexico, they brought with them African slaves, who introduced their traditions and rituals to the continent. These rituals were later incorporated into those carried out by shamans.
During the black mass, African rituals are still performed like sacrificing a chicken or black goat, with the objective of drinking the animal’s blood.
“They drink the animal blood and continue to sing and dance. Then they ask people to hand in letters, which the “brujo” collects and passes on to the devil who is supposedly there,” Herrera García.
The letters contain requests for good health, good fortune and love.
After the mass, the “brujos” move on to the cleansing and healing ceremonies.
When asked by the first Friday in March was chosen, Herrera García said that the date has many astronomical and natural significances.
“The ancient people were very familiar with astral movements and in March the planets adopt special positions. It also has to do with the renewal of the harvest, spring, renewal of trees and overall renewal,” he explained.
Friday was chosen partially because of the Christian religion.
“In the Christian religion, Friday is an important day, because that is when Christ died. So, that day was historically bad luck and I think because of that it was chosen, not by the “brujos,” but by the colonizers, and because of that the tradition of the first Friday of March stuck,” Herrera García said.
He said that many people come to the municipality to experiment with the supernatural, but others come because they have faith that the “brujos” will solve their problems.
Catemaco, Veracruz’s Twitter page posted a flyer for the annual event:
— Catemaco Ver (@CatemacoVeracru) February 18, 2016
ASHLEI ESPINOZA RODRÍGUEZ