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Reliving Golgotha

Reliving Golgotha

The Passion Play of Iztapalapa

Richard C. Trexler

ISBN 9780674010642

Publication date: 04/18/2003

In Reliving Golgotha, Richard Trexler brings an important new perspective to religious spectacle in an engrossing exploration of the annual passion play at Iztapalapa, the largest and poorest borough of Mexico City.

After tracing the history of European passion theater, Trexler examines the process by which representations of the passion were established in the Americas, especially in New Spain. Indeed, the Iztapalapan pageant can only be understood in the full historical context of Mexican church and state relations. Originally, this passion was a quintessential means by which the increasingly marginalized indigenous population marked its own culture from the mestizo ruling class. Early twentieth-century reenactments offered a tenaciously traditional spectacle, featuring Nahuatl-speaking actors, for a local audience who embraced it as a living protest against the pervasive power of the Church. A century later, political disorder and a suspicious church hierarchy often forced the suspension of the play in the aftermath of the Revolution. But by the middle of the century, political and religious authorities encouraged its development as a tourist event, and changes wrought by media coverage and the impact of government funding have further fractured the play's local identity.

In addition to offering valuable insights into the political, social, and psychological meanings of religious spectacle, Trexler illuminates the strong cultural forces that have helped provide a voice for some of Mexican society's most powerless members.


  • An original and innovative work, this fascinating account traces the history of Iztapalapa's annual reconstruction of Jesus' passion, in which you can see Mexico's past and present intersect with a vital piece, in fact a founding moment, of Christian history. Trexler notes that the play is strongly representative of a people that has no place within the power structures of Mexican society, and signifies, in many interesting ways, the struggles of these people with both the Catholic Church and the Mexican state.

    —Peter Sigal, California State University, Los Angeles


  • Richard C. Trexler was Distinguished Professor of History at the State University of New York, Binghamton.

Book Details

  • 302 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press