MASATEPE, Nicaragua — For 130 years, the people of Masatepe have observed Good Friday by dressing up in colorful masks and costumes and dragging chained “Judases” through the streets of their town in western Nicaragua.
Some dress like Roman soldiers. Others don masks designed to inspire fear, although the masks aren’t what you might expect in a Holy Week event — they’re macabre, post-apocalyptic creations.
Long chains are attached to the participants portraying Judas and people drag them around, sometimes symbolically kicking and beating them, to punish them for betraying Jesus Christ.
On this day, the “Judases” are known as “the chained ones.”
Organizer Israel Gutierrez Ruiz says more than 900 people participated in the event this year. “Half are paying a promise to God, the other half are doing it to maintain the tradition.”
Most of the participants are men, but women began joining in five years ago.
“I was the first woman to do it,” says 25-year-old Karla Lopez. “When I went to ask if I could, they called me crazy. But, in the end, my father supported me and now there are about 20 women taking part.”
Lopez says she does it in thanks for God’s blessings.
Others, like 23-year-old Daniel Mendoza, say they do it to keep the tradition alive.
“I have participated in it since I was 10 years old,” Mendoza says. “I do it because my father and grandfather did the same. I want to keep the custom alive.”
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.