Monday, April 9, 2012

Guy Fawkes-meets-Piñata Party (a.k.a. La quema del Judas 2012)

Una monedita para el Judas!

Once again, Easter came and went, and that means that Valparaiso had yet another round of "La quema del Judas" or "The burning of Judas" (though, in other countries this is sometimes called "The burning of the Jew").   Every year (see photos of the burning 2011, photos of the burning and parade 2010), this means that kids make an effigy of Judas out of clothes, straw, crumpled up paper, etc...  and collect money around town to stick inside his body.  Then on Easter Sunday night, the neighborhood with gather around, hang Judas up high, and light him on fire, letting the kids run around collecting the coins that fall out of his body as it burns up.
Judas 2012

This year I witnessed how they celebrate this tradition in the Plaza Waddington, in Playa Ancha.  Here, the Judas effigy was gigantic, though it didn't have any coins inside it. With such a huge Judas, that was probably a good thing as it would've been way to dangerous to get close enough to pick up the coins.
This tradition was different than the others I've seen as there was a show with various acts beforehand, and the whole tradition had a political focus.  There was angry talk about cell phone towers, the developed world taking advantage of the rest, government corruption, etc...  In fact, the monstruous Judas wore a patch on his chest representing the Chilean government, and while some may have wondered whether he was a member of Weezer, others affirm he bore the likeness of Chilean Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter (I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that it was purely politics and nothing to do with the fact Mr. Hinzpeter is Jewish).
You you see the resemblance? 

While I understand the link between Judas-the-traitor and government officials who are considered to have betrayed the people in one way or another, I personally don´t find it necessary to link the two things.  Moreover, given that the minister is a living human being, I feel uncomfortable with talking about and, more so, pretending to harm him or any specific people or groups of people, no matter what they may do or believe.  (I mean, at least Judas doesn't have the option of being offended or freaked out about what all these communities around the world are pretending to do to him!)  Anyway, the connection was never explicit, and the show was quite good and entertaining.  I enjoyed the opportunity to at least talk to people and find out their views on various present-day traitors.  

Although the article refers to examples in Venezuela,  I found it interesting in discussing the way the event brings together a community. It talks about ways they channel violence into this horrible creature to be burned, that´s why its important to represent him as someone hated by all the community, and why often he is represented as doing or being something worse than just a human traitor. 

For the record, other Judas´s were modeled after figures like Freddy Krueger or Satan.  With no further ado... Here are the pictures from the show and burning: 
A little boy looks as if he is checking to see if Judas is real.

Tug of war before the burning of Judas in the Plaza Waddington.

The cutest game I`ve ever seen of "Arriba las manos" (Chilean version of Simon says that only has hands up/hands down). The boy in green is adorable. None of them are sure if they`re doing it right. 

The effigy awaiting its fate. 

The flames had not taken over the glasses yet. 
 The event in Playa Ancha ended early enough that I still had time to make it for round 2 in El Litre. (Pictures to follow) While they didn`t have the whole show and production, they did beat out Playa Ancha in 3 areas: 
  • Judas` testament.  (Though these were kinda funny ones verging on inside jokes of the neighborhood, like such-and-such finally getting a girlfriend so he could get rid of the blow up doll). 
  • Actually having coins in Judas
  • Community spirit. The crowd was so into it! Everybody was yelling or joking around and participating in some way. 
Awaiting his fate. 

Judas being set on fire in the El Litre event.

A burning Judas swinging on a cable between some houses. 
Everybody backs up and waits before the first coins start to fall. 

The older kids monopolize the coin search. 

Collecting the coins falling out of Judas` burning body. 


  1. Hinzpeter, eh? I was wondering why they were burning an effigy of Allende, but I guess he would have had white hair.

    I understand that it's a cultural tradition, but when I think of all the energy put into "hating" something or someone, it makes me sad.

  2. haha. yes, me too. I'm somewhat alright with hating a historical figure, but I think only when I'm sure people realize history is history, and they don't by association direct their hate at people similar to them these days. Then again, the article I linked argued that channeling these feelings can perhaps be a good thing....

  3. Lydia! I stumbled on your blog while trying to look up an ex-pat community in the Valpo area and your photos of "the burning of Judas" caught my eye. I was in Valpo for four months last year, and plan to return again this upcoming June, and knowing the culture a little bit, it's surprising to see that the community participated in this kind of religiously toned ritual. I hadn't seen any kind of religious fervor at all while I was in Chile. This is really interesting! And I know where Plaza Waddington is too. :)

    Anyway, I was wondering if you might have any advice/tips... I'm pretty much desperately seeking an apartment or co-op kind of deal to stay during this summer but haven't been successful because so little is available over the web in Valpo. Can you share your own experience of how you found a place? Honestly anything would be helpful at this point, haha. Please email me at if you would so gracious :) Te agradezco pa tu ayudo... Que tengas un buen semana!

  4. With this kind of heated event, I wonder how the kids are protected? by the way, they look so cute in your photo!

  5. Cool photos. We are blogging out of Valpo as well!! Do you have an RSS feed?

  6. Uncanny resemblance. Super interesting post. I get tired of blogs about mountains and lakes and trekkers and mountains and lakes and more trekkers.