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La quema de Judas or The Judas burning in Mexico is a celebration held in Sabado de Gloria (Holy Saturday). Papier mache figures symbolizing Judas Iscariot stuffed with fireworks are exploded in Local Plazas in front of cheerful spectators.
The Judas exploded in public spaces can measure up to 5 meters while 30 cms ones can be found with a firework in their back to explode them "at home".
The Spaniards and Portuguese spread the tradition around their colonies and it is still celebrated in Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Uruguay, Chile and The Philippines.
In Mexico La quema de Judas dates from the beginning of the Spanish Colony when the Judas effigies were made with hay and rags and burned. Later as paper became available and the fireworks techniques arrived thanks to the Spanish commerce route from the Philippines the Judas were made out of cardboard, stuffed with fireworks and exploded.
After the Independence War the celebration lost its religious character and became a secular festivity. The Judas effigies were stuffed with candies, bread and cigarettes to attract the crowds into the business that sponsored the Judas.
The Judas was then depicted as a devil and identified with a corrupted official, or any character that would harm the people. In 1849 a new law stipulated that it was forbidden to relate a Judas effigy with any person by putting a name on it or dressing it in a certain way to be identified with a particular person.
In the end of the 19th century this celebration was held everywhere in Mexico. In the 1950' Pedro Linares, who created the tradition to burn Judas in the back of the Sonora market at La Merced, used to employ more than 300 helpers to make all the Judas he sold around the city but as time passed the demand became smaller.
Censorship has played a major role in the dwindling of this tradition; another reason has been security measures regarding the fireworks. Nowadays most of the burnings of Judas are sponsored by artisans and local governments and are held in Mexico City and Estado de Mexico.
In Mexico City, Pedro Linares descendants continue to burn Judas in La Merced as a way to keep up with the tradition while in Santa Rosa Xochiac the whole neighborhood participates making gigantic Judas that are burnt in the main Plaza.
Politician judas made by Pedro Linares' son Miguel and wife Paula is burned in La Merced
Although her work was widely appreciated by Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Rufino Tamayo and Henry Moore it had been forgotten until sculptor and curator Enriqueta Landgrave saw her sculptures and began investigating her life and work.
Linares was an artist concerned with the preserving of traditions and although the alebrijes made him a celebrity he continued to make Judas and to burn them in his neighborhood.
His artistic tradition was passed to his descendants and they continue making Judas sculptures in all sizes and forms.