15 March 2018

Celebrating Holy Week in Mompox, Colombia

Posted in Blog

A visit to Mompox, Colombia is exciting any time of the year, but it can be even more memorable if you go during Holy Week. So if you're thinking of celebrating Holy Week in Mompox, Colombia, here are a few things to know, so you can fully enjoy the unique pilgrimages and religious rituals of this historic city along the Magdalena River.

Mompox Colombia

Getting to Mompox

Founded in 1537, Mompox is located in the Bolivár Department in northern Colombia, about a six-hour bus ride from Cartagena. Moderately-priced collectivos (shared taxis) leave regularly from the bus terminal in Sincelejo (in the nearby Sucre Department), driving to La Bodega, which is a boat launch in the city of Magangue. From here, catch a chalupa (a small boat with covered seating), traveling on the waters of the Magdalena River, arriving at a docking area where a second collectivo will take you to Mompox. If buses and collectivos are not your style or you don’t speak Spanish, consider booking a tour to Mompox starting from Cartagena or Santa Marta.

Visit Mompox Colombia

Traditional pilgrimages to mourn the dead

Holy week, or Semana Santa in Spanish, features many traditional celebrations including pilgrimages through the Mompox city center. The most famous passage is the Serenade to the Deceased, a procession upheld by townspeople in a mix of paganism, Catholicism, and magic. Dressed in their finest clothes and jewelry, Momposians decorate statues of saints with glittering treasures, passing the seven churches of Mompox, before resting at the public cemetery to mourn the dead: a practice believed by many to bring eternal salvation to participants.

Mompox Colombia

Religious roots and rituals

In keeping with religious holiday practices, residents, dressed in their best clothes, sit in the cemetery all night, remembering deceased loved ones with gifts of candles and flowers. They serenade the dead until morning comes, then funeral music is played. Later in the week Momposians, led by men dressed in turquoise clothes portraying the residents of Nazareth, kick the doors or throw stones to force entry into the Church of the Immaculate Conception. From here, participants walk to the Church of San Francisco, then attend mass at the Church of Santo Domingo.

Mompox Colombia

A few more ideas for your visit to Mompox

While you're in town, visit a local jeweler to learn about Filigrana, an art that involves weaving tiny threads of silver or gold into delicate, lace-like jewelry and intricate designs inspired by nature. Stop by City Hall, where the "Ser Libres o Morir,” the cry for "Freedom or Death,” was first heard, and the Act of Independence from Spain was signed in 1810. Finally, indulge in local Momposino cuisine – typical of coastal Colombia, featuring fried fish, coconut rice, green salad, and traditional arepa con huevo (arepa with egg).

Whatever you decide to do during Holy Week, a visit to Mompox, Colombia, a place that often appears trapped in time, is a great alternative to crowded beaches and traffic-laden cities. With these tips and ideas, you're sure to enjoy this historic city to the fullest. 

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Holy Week Mompox


About the author: 

Kate Dana is an independent writer and international educator with five years' experience teaching and living abroad. She enjoys cooking, traveling and staying connected with friends around the world. Find her online at www.katedana.com.