That night Senor Hernandez and I stayed with Father Pascual. Awaking to the ringing of bells at dawn on Thursday, I walked out to the church courtyard. The sky was filled with stars that looked like a rain of fireworks frozen in midair. Next to the large stone cross in the center of the courtyard I spied Father Pascual’s silhouette. The priest stood still as a statue, head bowed in prayer.
The ringing of the bells grew louder as the blue light of dawn slowly became a long white arch above the mountains in the east. Smoke from cooking fires began to seep through the thatch-palm roofs of the village houses. Cocks crowed. Cows, pigs, and chickens began to stir.
At about six in the morning many young men appeared, wearing white shirts and white trousers and carrying long bamboo spears and wooden sabers. These were the borrados. I asked them where they were going, but they took pains to avoid me.
I followed them at a distance to the edge of a pool in a stream. The group grew steadily in size until it contained about 400 men. They all talked excitedly. Suddenly they fell silent and formed two long columns. The captain went to the pool, while the rest bowed their heads with great respect. Then the columns began to file past him. The captain would touch each man on the head and say a few words in the Cora language.
The borrados removed their clothes and entered the pool. When they came out, they began covering each other with a black mixture of mud and the soot of burned corncobs (pages 786-7). A new personality seemed to emerge in them as they started to leap and yell. For the first time they directed their attention to me. A few stones whizzed past my head.
I felt I had to do something, so I walked to the pool, picked up some soot and mud, and covered my face with it. The borrados became quite angry about my intrusion and ordered me to leave. Then they arranged themselves in two rows again and ran toward the village.
On my way back I found one of the borrados resting in the shade of a small tree. He was about twenty years old, handsome, and strongly built.
I asked him where he came from, and he pointed to the east. He told me in Spanish that his house was three days’ walk away.”My family and I come to Mesa del Nayar every year for Holy Week,” he said. “But this is the last year I will be a borrado. All young Coras are obligated to play this part for five years, otherwise the Devil will take possession of their souls. I have already served four times.
“Now I must go and drink atole with peyote [he referred to a corn-meal mush mixed with bits of the hallucinogenic peyote cactus]. We must dance the whole evening and night, and it will give me strength.”As he left, he warned me:”Be very careful with the Captain of the Judeans. He is a wicked man.”
Peyote Spurs Frenzied Running
Outside the church I noticed a small army of boys carrying old rifles and sabers and led by three adults. These people, I was told, were the “Pharisees.” Their ceremonial duty was to keep order and to guard the church against the borrados, who were even then running around the village and through the courtyard of the church with incredible energy. No doubt the peyote was having its effect.
From within the church came a strange, monotonous music. I went in and climbed to the choir loft, where I found two old men and a boy playing a homemade violin, a small drum, and a triangle.
“We must play for two days,” one of them told me, “until the heavens open up.” The phrase referred to Christ’s Resurrection, which the Indians observe on Holy Saturday.
I glanced out a window that overlooked the courtyard and saw Father Pascual with six Coras who wore simulated crowns of thorns and held palm-frond scepters. These Coras were acting as the Apostles. They knelt with the priest in front of a small niche that marked one of the Stations of the Cross see your dental plan.
Young “Jesus” Chased and Captured
Later I discovered that the borrados were running a four-mile circuit past Stations of the Cross outside the village. At four in the afternoon all the borrados gathered in the village, looking for Jesus in order to arrest him. Jesus was portrayed by a small boy, about 7 years old, dressed in a white shirt and white trousers.
The borrados found the boy on the edge of the village and started to chase him (following pages). The boy climbed a tree and brandished a small wooden cross, and the borrados all fell to the ground as though struck by lightning. Three times—in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost—the borrados chased the boy, and three times they fell writhing to the ground at the sight of the cross.
The fourth time, they caught him in the courtyard of the church, knocked him to the ground, and tied his hands. Then the youngsters who acted as guards, the women, and the older men assembled in a procession, with the captive boy at its head. The group went around the village, pausing at the Stations of the Cross. The borrados kept running around, jumping and yelling, and sometimes hitting people with their spears. When the procession reached the church again, everyone went home except for the borrados, who stayed up all night rushing and screaming around the village and drinking atole with peyote.
Next morning, while the borrados kept up their frenzied racing and harrying, the church began to fill with people. The music continued exactly as before. The Pharisees were active, constantly changing guard.
The borrados then approached the church, yelling and raising their spears and sabers. Everyone ran out of their way. I decided to come closer so I could get better pictures, and the borrados suddenly became still and glared at me angrily.
Without warning, about fifty of them came at me, leaping and shouting as they ran. Afraid to turn my back, I stood my ground. The Coras, surprised, stopped just short of where I stood, then circled me, making a frightful clatter by whacking the ground with their wooden sabers. One struck me a stiff blow on the back.
Just as unexpectedly as they had come, they ran back to the main group to confer with one of their leaders, who wore a horned devil’s mask and a reed-grass vest. The tension mounted.
I felt that if I showed any sign of fear, the Coras would notice and perhaps do me harm. As calmly as I could, I walked the twenty yards or so to where they were talking. To my amazement, they asked me whether I was willing to become one of them.