The Participants

Two CEREMONIAL SOCIETIES, the Fariseos and Caballeros, are in charge of the Easter Ceremony, and all other events that occur in Lent. Since their members are promised by vow to the service of Jesus, He is regarded as their leader. One of their two small crucifixes must always be on the altar when they are present. Each wears a Yaqui rosary of carved wooden beads and wooden cross and a small tassel, and each says a prayer silently as he goes about his duties. The two societies are organized as an army; the Fariseos are the infantry, the Caballeros the cavalry. Both have officers and common soldiers. The Caballero captain is traditionally the head of the whole army, but this has not always been carried out in Pascua. The two societies march together in formation (see diagram), and the Fariseos use intricate rhythmic steps for special occasions. In Sonora, the Caballeros are generally mounted, so they do not join in these special march steps. These two societies perform all of the manual labor incident to the ceremonies, such as cleaning up the plaza, chopping wood, and carrying water. This work is regarded in the same category as ritual labor, and merits equal spiritual rewards. Their headquarters, known as the barracks or waria, is the space adjoining the church to the north.


The Fariseos (Pharisees) represent those who persecuted Jesus. The Yaqui dramatization of evil is earnestly thought to be for the eventual glory of Jesus. The members of the society, especially the masked men, are often apprehensive lest their assumed role of evil be confused with their deep devotion to Jesus and to the ritual of the Catholic Church.


There may be several men in every position except that of the captain, who is elected. The highest officer, called Pilate, carries a lance decorated with painted bands and designs. Below the lance head is a small red skirt, said to represent the tunic of the Nazarene. The captain is the executive director, and he and the sergeants and corporals who assist him carry painted wooden swords in their left hands. Other officers carry flags with a green cross on a red field bound with green ribbon. Each time these flags are waved represents the sign of the cross, and they are always waved for a blessing, at all starts and stops, before all crosses, and at stated times in the church ritual. When the flags are waved in the four directions, it is to bless the ground. A flutist and drummer furnish signals. All of the officers wear hats when they are in the role of Fariseo, even when they are inside the church. When the church group makes the sign of the cross, they touch their hats in respect.


Masked men, known as Chapayekas, are the common soldiers of the Fariseos. Judas is their "saint." One of their ritual functions is to deride the services and try to distract the Maestros. Many of their actions are performed left-handed and backwards. They play and indulge in antics between the services or when waiting in line at the church or at the stations. This play is stylized, but from year to year new actions are introduced. The mask of the Chapayeka, called sewa or flower, is traditionally made of hide, although cardboard is sometimes used. There are two types. The mask considered to be the most traditional is white, with long ears, short horns, and a long sharp nose. These may have formalized designs, some of which represent the sun, moon, and stars; or they may be altered in such ways as to depict a butterfly, bull, goat, owl, bat, rabbit, or other creatures. With this old type of mask is worn a blanket folded and pinned about the body somewhat in the manner of an overcoat. The newer type of mask has features resembling human beings, and with these an old coat is worn. Mexican soldiers and policemen, U. S. soldiers, hoboes, and gamblers are favorite types. Often the behavior of a Chapayeka dramatizes the type of mask he is wearing. A man with a rabbit mask may hop about, with others chasing him, finally pretending to kill and skin him. The mask, which is considered sacred, is never given away or sold. Certain taboos must be observed in respect to the mask. For example, it must not come into contact with others, and should not be stared at closely. If a mask is thus profaned, the owner may not "receive his glory." He must always lie down to put on or remove the mask, making the sign of the cross as he does so. Other Chapayekas may be seen hovering around to hide him if it is necessary to do this in public. Other specialized behavior and taboos must be observed, and he must wear the mask "with good heart" or risk serious sanctions. Since the mask also represents evil, a masked Chapayeka holds in his mouth the cross of his Yaqui rosary and repeats prayers silently to himself, so that the "evil will not enter into his heart." No matter how irreverent his behavior, he bears constantly in mind Jesus to whom he is promised and for whom he is playing his part.

Over his blanket the Chapayeka wears a belt with deer or pig-hoof rattles attached by thongs. The trousers are tied at the ankles with thongs, and Yaqui sandals are worn. In his right hand he carries a long, decorated wooden sword, and in his left hand a dagger. Since he must never speak while wearing the mask, his only communication is to pantomime with his two weapons and his rattle belt. An attentive visitor will soon learn some of his language.

On the first Friday of Lent only one Chapayeka appears. Other Chapayekas join him on the following Fridays. Sometimes an incoming Chapayeka takes his regalia in a gunnysack to a remote and secluded spot, where he puts it on. He returns to the village by a circuitous route, exploring the terrain as if it were a strange land. He approaches the plaza and is spotted by the Chapayekas who are already in the Fariseo barracks. They go out to meet him and in a mock fight overcome him, then revive him and entice him into the plaza and to the Fariseo barracks. One of the older officers makes a speech to him, mentioning the pleasures that he will enjoy if he joins them, but also asking if he is willing to risk "having his head cut off" by helping them apprehend "that Man," meaning Jesus. The speech, partly extemporaneous, includes jokes which are enjoyed by the observers. Finally the new Chapayeka is coaxed into entering the barracks. He is said to represent a traveler, or a soldier who is lost, who is recruited to swell the ranks of the wicked soldiers.


The captain of the Caballeros carries a silvered wooden sword, and the corporals silvered lances. Their flag is gray with a pale green trim, and is waved simultaneously with those of the Fariseos and for the same reasons. In Mexico the function of this society is that of a neutral guard. In Pascua the group is identified with the Fariseos until Wednesday night of Holy Week, when they separate from them temporarily on Good Friday afternoon they declare themselves on the side of the church.


The church group is not organized as a society, but works together as a closely knit organization. Its members are by vow dedicated to the Virgin, but they also think of themselves as serving Christ. They are often spoken of as Mary's army. The church group has a dual role in the Easter Ceremony, simultaneously carrying out portions of the Catholic liturgy and representing Jesus and Mary in the drama. The men and boys of the church group, carrying and escorting the crucifixes and the male holy figures, take the part of Jesus. The women and girls, with the images of the Virgin, represent Mary.


The leaders of the church group are the Maestros, who preside over all of the services in the church. They are not ordained, or in any way connected officially with the Catholic Church. In general they follow the Catholic ritual, using a Spanish or Latin missal and Latin breviary for the parts of the services which they may read without ordination. Each Maestro has a book in which are written prayers, hymns, and parts of services. The parish priest is called on to perform the sacraments and many attend the parish church. The head Maestro, chosen because of knowledge and leadership, coordinates the activities of the church group with the older complex events, preaches sermons in

which he interprets events and ritual, and teaches Catholic doctrine and Yaqui moral and religious beliefs. The Maestros wear no insignia.


The Sacristans aid the Maestros and arrange and care for the crucifixes and male holy figures.

Women Singers

Each Maestro is accompanied by one or more singers who chant and sing with him in polyphonic style. They wear black rebozos.

Altar Women

The altar women also wear black rebozos. They dress the altar with the appurtenances appropriate to each ceremony and arrange and care for the figures of Mary, draping them with lavender or black at stated times in the Lenten season. They appoint the women who carry the figures of the Virgin in processions, and dress these women and the girl flag bearers in regalia they have made and keep in order. They also escort the figures of the Virgin in processions.

Girl Flag Bearers

These are young, unmarried girls who serve three-year vows in this position. They wear white cotton head coverings embroidered in colors, over which are placed pointed oval crowns of red cardboard decorated with pastel ribbons which represent flowers. The crowns themselves are called flowers. Each girl carries a flag, red and green like the Fariseo flags, except between the sixth Friday of Lent and Good Friday, during which time they substitute lavender flags and wear lavender crowns. The flag is waved three times each time in the sign of the cross, for a blessing. At the same time the girls say a benediction to themselves. A small bell held in the same hand as the flag rings when the flag is waved. The girl flag bearers also act as assistants to the altar women.

Bearers of the Figures of Mary

The women who bear the images of Mary are not under vow, but may volunteer to serve or may be chosen by the altar women. They wear on their heads the same regalia as the girl flag bearers.


Children taking the role of angels are promised to the position for three or six years. Their function is to guard the altar and the holy figures with the switches they always carry. They are accompanied by godparents. They wear long white or pale dresses and petticoats, silk scarves, ribbon sashes, strings of bright beads, and flower crowns over a head covering of white cloth. On occasions in Holy Week, these flower wreaths are replaced by crowns of green leaves. Sometimes Chapayekas approach the children as they enter the plaza, and the children are expected to whip them ferociously.


The Matachin dance society is composed of men and boys under vow to the Blessed Virgin. According to legend they were created by her and dressed in regalia by her, and they are often called the "soldiers of the Virgin." The young boys in the center line wear long skirts, Mexican embroidered blouses, ribbon sashes, and beads. They are said to be dressed like the Virgin and to act as special guards for her. They are called malinchim. A figure of Mary and one of Joseph must b ' e present on the altar when the Matachinis are dancing. The headdress worn by all, called sewa or flower, has a peaked framework of cane, wound with brightly colored crepe paper or ribbon and decorated with gay disks. Attached to the top is a mass of crepe paper strips which cascade downward in a flowing mass. They represent flowers, as do the feathers that decorate the wand held in the left hand. The gourd rattle in the right hand is used to beat time to the music.

The Matachinis are allied with the church group, and thus are in opposition to the Fariseos in the Easter Ceremony. They dance at fiestas and act as escorts to the holy figures in processions. Because of the Fariseos' ritual fear of flowers, the Matachinis do not appear in Lent until the fiesta on the night before Palm Sunday. Their dancing at "The Gloria" on Holy Saturday, and their flower regalia help defeat the Fariseos. They are in charge of ceremonies outside of Lent.

In a three-line formation, to the music of violins and guitars, the Matachinis execute forms and steps reminiscent of European folk dances. The manager carries a bamboo cane decorated with narrow ribbons and sometimes an incised cross. The dance leader dances at the head of the center line, with the malinchim, who are under vow to be dance leaders, behind him. The dancers behind the two leaders of the outer lines are called soldiers, and are sometimes also referred to as disciples.

The Matachinis are not mentioned in the legends so bound up with the pre-Spanish lore of the Pascolas and Deer Dancer-legends that tell of a natural world in which man and animal could communicate, and in which special power could be obtained from the forest, from caves in the mountains, from animals, and from dreams.


In addition to the ceremonial societies, there are two sets of dancers who are important in the life of Pascua. These are the Pascolas and their three musicians, and the Deer Dancer and his three singers. Each operates as a group and each has a moro or manager. They dance at certain fiestas, and, with the Matachinis, lead some of the full ceremonial processions. They have no formal vows, but consider themselves to be dedicated to Jesus, and to have an obligation to the village to dance when invited. As in the case of other groups, performance of duties is considered to be a way to personal salvation and well-being.


The Pascolas (old men of the fiesta) not only dance at fiestas, but are the ceremonial hosts for the fiesta givers. They are on the side of the Church in the Easter Ceremony, and dance and throw flowers to help destroy the Fariseos on Holy Saturday.

Bare to the waist, the Pascola wears a necklace of beads with a mother-of-pearl cross, and a cotton blanket wrapped around the hips and fastened below the knees. Bells dangle from a wide leather belt, and cocoon rattles encircle his legs. His hair is tied in a tuft with a red string or ribbon representing a flower, and for some fiestas a crepe paper flower is added. His oval mask of carved wood is painted black with white designs, and long coarse white hair simulates eyebrows and beard. Much of this regalia is connected with old Yaqui beliefs and legends, as is a great deal of his behavior. He has, however, been integrated into the ceremonies, and sanction has been given to his often ribald behavior. At the end of a fiesta, the head Pascola gives a sermon similar to those of the Maestros in which he discusses Christian concepts. He always asks pardon of the village for his behavior during the night.

Deer Dancer

The original function of the Deer Dancer (maso) was to take part in hunting rituals held on the night before a deer hunt. It is believed that these dances and songs persuaded the deer to give himself up to the hunter.

In Pascua, the Deer Dancer dances singly and appears with each Pascola in succession, to the music of his flute and drum. He dances to the simultaneous songs of his three singers. The flower symbol is important to the Deer Dancer, as it is to the Matachinis, and so he is ritually feared by the Fariseos. Therefore, the Deer Dancer does not present himself until the fiesta of the night before Palm Sunday. His dancing and the connection of his regalia and the deer songs to flowers help to defeat the Fariseos at "The Gloria."

He wears a shawl wrapped as a skirt over rolled-up pants. His rattle belt is traditionally of deer hooves attached to rawhide thongs, so numerous that they stand out in a thick cluster. He wears cocoon rattles on his ankles. A real or imitation deer head is fastened to his head over a white cloth. Red ribbons wound around the horns represent flowers. A red ribbon bow in the shape of a cross is fastened between the antlers of his deer headdress. He is bare above the waist except for a necklace of beads with a mother-of-pearl cross. While dancing he manipulates a gourd in each hand. Each of these gourds is shaken in a different way.

The Deer Dancer dances to the music of three singers who play native instruments. Two operate raspers held over half-gourds, while the third beats on a drum made of a half-gourd floating in a basin of water. The songs are pre-Spanish and have to do with legends concerning the deer. The water in the pan is considered to be sacred after the songs have been sung over it.

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