People flock to passion play (video)
Josie Caballero limped along Callis Street on Friday, determined to reach Capilla De La Santisima Trinidad, where Jesus would be nailed to a cross, hoisted into the air and die for her sins.
This would be the first time she'd ever completed the mile long trek, but not for lack of trying.
In 2008, the 67-year-old carried a cross part of the way as she walked down the Via Dolorosa, a street within the old city of Jerusalem. She said it was a privilege extended to some tourists.
She'd also seen the passion of Christ carried out in Veracruz, Mexico, in front of crowds reaching into the tens of thousands.
Then, her world travels were starting to catch up with her. She twisted her ankle.
"But someone had me by the hand the whole time," Caballero said.
Problems with her knees and hips would soon follow. That, coupled with working full time, meant she was forced to sit out Capilla De La Santisima Trinidad's and Our Lady of Sorrows' 30-year tradition time and time again.
She was thankful 2013 would be different.
"It's just the act of participating," she said, not discouraged in the least by a thick, slow moving crowd that prevented her from viewing the actors. "A lot of people don't want to see it because it is so painful - and it is - but this is what really happened."
She clutched a Spanish language pamphlet that had more information about each of the stations of the cross, her lips moving in sync with her neighbors as crooning tunes sounded over a loud speaker.
"As much as I'm impressed by these older people walking, I'm more impressed by these young people," she said, pointing out a boy clad in a blue in front of her. "When he was praying before, that was just great."
Cesar Hernandez, president of the parish, said children make up a lot of estimated 150 participants. He said it is what the Pope Francis would want.
"It is important because we want them to find their faith early on. A lot of kids can get lost (in things like drugs, alcohol or gangs). Here, they can see there are better ways to live," Hernandez said.
Jorge Perez started getting involved at a young age. This was the second year the 16-year-old East High School student donned a laurel wreath as Pontius Pilate, the man who sentences Jesus to death. In earlier roles, Perez played Judas, who is also known for betrayal.
"I kind of feel bad for it because it shows we're not supposed to live like that, we're not supposed to be cowards," Jorge said before everything got underway. "We have to believe in ourselves, but it's a challenge."
Brunilda Ortiz, 57, meanwhile, wore a somber look throughout much of the procession. Taking on the role of Mary, she clutched the body of her maimed son and cried.
She only met Jesus, played by Pablo Linares Sr., 56, two weeks ago, but said it was just as emotional.
"As I react every year, my heart is broken," Ortiz said. "It isn't a play. ... It's really the living stations of the cross. We're walking the walk. We're walking the walk Jesus walked 2,013 years ago."
Linares, who works part time at a local food bank, agreed, adding he hoped it would convert some people in the crowd.
"This is not a show. This is not a circus," he said about how he lifts a 180-pound wooden cross most of the way. "I try to do my best to show the people how much the Lord loved us. He manifested some of his love by sending his only son to this world to be an example."
When Caballero reached the new Capilla De La Santisima Trinidad church on Pleasant Green Drive about 2 p.m., a smile lit up her features.
"Would you look at that," she said, chuckling. "You know, I've lived by myself for a long time, but I've never felt alone. I know I can always call on Him (God), and I am so thankful."