PILSEN — Hundreds of Catholics congregated along 18th Street Friday for the long-awaited, in-person return of Pilsen’s Good Friday tradition reenacting live scenes of the moments leading up to Jesus Christ’s Crucifixion.
The 45th annual Via Crucis launched with The Last Supper reenactment at Providence of God Church, 717 W. 18th St. Actors staged a procession down 18th Street then re-enacted Christ’s Crucifixion at Harrison Park.
The procession then headed to St. Adalbert Catholic Church, 1650 W. 17th St., for a final prayer ahead of Easter Sunday.
Neighbors haven’t been able to celebrate in full since 2019. Organizers held livestreamed processions with smaller casts of people in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic. Residents and actors said it was emotional to commemorate Via Crucis in person again, something many of them have done since they were kids.
“Oh, it’s an amazing feeling just feeling the passion of Christ … the cruelty and pain that he suffered for us,” said Adriana Fernandez, who acted as Veronica. “It just makes me cry, made me cry the whole time.”
Pilsen native Ivan Luis Barajas, 40, performed as Jesus Christ; his daughter portrayed Mary. He said being selected for their roles was “very humbling, very emotional.”
“It’s a community of faith, that really believes in traditions and our Catholic religion,” Barajas said.
Isaac Bucio, who played Jesus Christ last year, played Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea who sentenced Jesus Christ to his crucifiction.
Bucio said he did extensive research for his performance to craft his interpretation of the character, down to his posture and his delivery.
“It’s a transition that’s a little bit difficult to do, but we practiced a lot and we had good directors,” he said. “You’re going from very humble person to a very extravagant arrogant person.”
Maria Bracamontes of Little Village watched the procession with her fiance, Michael Gonzalez. As a Mexican Chicagoan, Bracamontes said she is grateful the tradition continues so that it can be passed down through generations in the Latino community.
“It’s nice to see that the people come up. There’s still Hispanic people,” Bracamontes said. “The way it’s changing – Pilsen is changing – I’m glad this is still happening.”
Via Crucis has been held in Pilsen every year since 1977.
“We hope that this just keeps going and going just never stops. It’s rooted deeply in Pilsen,” Bucio said.
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