This year, Holy Week, or Semana Santa if you're in Latin America, spans April 13-20. People who observe this important event on the religious calendar by upholding Catholic tradition likely spent the Lenten season that leads up to Easter abstaining from meat on Fridays and giving up something–coffee, alcohol, chocolate, or some other treat typically considered an indulgence–in an act of spiritual self-discipline.
As Easter approaches, though, thoughts turn toward celebration and, of course, celebration nearly always involves food. Throughout Latin America, Semana Santa is one long feast day, as each country and region ends Lent and welcomes Easter by reviving long-held traditions and cooking up special recipes. Here's a guide to some of Latin America's Semana Santa celebrations.
Ayacucho, the capital of Peru's Huamanga province, is legendary for its religious celebrations, the biggest and most memorable of which occur during Semana Santa. The town, which has 33 churches, one for each year of Jesus' life, hosts the typical schedule of parades, parties, and dramatic processions associated with holidays, and is known for being particularly tolerant of questionable behavior; since Jesus has not yet been resurrected, the thinking goes, there is no such thing as sin. Excess of all sorts is permissible, as long as it's done before Easter Sunday.
If you happen to be in Ayacucho during Holy Week, be sure to scan menus for sopa viernes, a potato-based stew that may include other root vegetables. In other parts of the country, you'll likely see a variety of dishes featuring fresh seafood, such as ceviches and whole-cooked fish. Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, chef and owner of Lima's Malabar, ranked seventh among the 50 best restaurants of Latin America, recommends celebrating the end of Lent with a meal at El Refugio de Santiago in Lunahuana. Shrimp and trout are featured in many iterations on the menu, and cuy (guinea pig) bathed in tiger's milk is also available for those with adventurous palates. “Along your way you can stop to try some piscos from Don Victor Zapata at Bodega El Paraíso,” said Schiaffino. “It is a place near Lima for those who do not have much time to make a long distance journey.”
Next, we take a trip to Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and more...