May 23, 2019
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Newcomer lands main role in Mexico's grandest Passion Play

Mexico City, Apr 19 (epa-efe).- On this Good Friday, for the first time in 15 years, the role of Jesus in the famed Passion Play in the Mexico City borough of Iztapalapa will be filled by someone with no prior experience in the event.

The traditional procession, which dates back to 1843, is the most important event of the year for the nearly 2 million residents of the borough, the capital's most-populous and one of the poorest.

Jose Antonio Reyes, 23, was chosen in January for the starring role in the Holy Week pageant, and has spent the last few months preparing, both mentally and physically, for the demands of portraying Jesus in the darkest moments of the life of the Nazarene.

To be eligible for the principal role, aspirants must be Iztapalapa-born, free of tattoos or piercings, unmarried and without children.

Jose Antonio, an engineering student, made it to the second phase of the selection process with two other young men, and was the choice of 32 of 45 members of the jury.

Ever since, he told EFE, he has gone under an intense "physical, mental and spiritual" preparation.

His routine centers on four hours a day of training, half at the gym and the other half carrying a cross of 75kgs (165lbs) and a trunk of 40kgs "to kill the sensitivity of the shoulder."

But mental toughness is also vital, he says, as "there are days when the body can't resist much longer, but you have to prepare to move forward."

There is also the task of learning and memorizing 50 pages of dialogue and stage direction.

And to better connect with the role, Jose Antonio has gone to Mass every Sunday.

Even so, he says that "religion does not matter so much, it's more the tradition of Iztapalapa. Here, the residents of the eight neighborhoods become accustomed to going to watch the procession from a very young age."

Eighty-nine years after his great-grandfather played the same role, Jose Antonio's family are excited and proud to see him embody Jesus of Nazareth in the Passion Play.

That's why they have shelled out 40,000 pesos ($2,120) to provide Jose Antonio with all he needs to look the part and to cope with the extreme conditions.

"I'm excited, I'm not nervous, that's why we've been preparing, if I get nervous I don't enjoy it," Jose Antonio says.

Ines Amarelo

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