Mexico stops 177-year-old crucifixion re-enactment for virus

FILE - In this March 30, 2018 file photo, men known as "Nazarenes" rest beside the crosses they are carrying in a religious procession marking Good Friday in the neighborhood of Iztapalapa, Mexico City. To stop the spread of the new coronavirus, a Mexico City borough announced on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, that they were cancelling Latin America's most famous re-enactment of the crucifixion of Christ, with a smaller version of the 177-year-old event to be held in private with no spectators. (AP Photo/Christian Palma, File)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A Mexico City borough announced Tuesday that Latin America's most famous re-enactment of the crucifixion of Christ will be closed to the public for the first time in 177 years to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The lavish, detailed Easter-week Passion of Christ has been played out in the east-side borough of Iztapalapa since 1843, and in recent years has drawn a week-long total of about 2 million spectators.

But due to fears about the spread of the new coronavirus, Iztapalapa borough president Clara Brugada said that for the first time the event will be held in private with no spectators.

Brugada said the Passion of Christ will be re-enacted indoors with a smaller cast and will be “symbolic.” All the actors are required by tradition to be borough residents.

Brugada said the event will be transmitted live so people can watch it at home. Ironically, the passion was first performed in 1843 after a cholera outbreak threatened the then-rural hamlet.

Iztapalapa was long ago swallowed by the urban growth of Mexico City. The Passion normally includes huge processions, public re-enactments with huge casts, culminating in the Good Friday re-enactment of the crucifixion in which ropes and a small ledge are used to guarantee the actors' safety.