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Devils whip sinners in El Salvador Holy Week tradition

Devils known as "talciguines" lash sinners in a town square in El Salvador in a centuries-old Holy Week tradition (Marvin RECINOS)
Devils known as "talciguines" lash sinners in a town square in El Salvador in a centuries-old Holy Week tradition (Marvin RECINOS)

Devils with leather whips lashed people in a town square in El Salvador on Monday to "punish" them for their sins, in a centuries-old Holy Week tradition.

The festival involving red-dressed "talciguines" -- devilish men in the Nahuatl language -- takes place once a year in the farming town of Texistepeque.

After a morning mass in the church of San Esteban, the talciguines went to the town square to look for sinners, who cried out in pain when lashed.

To escape punishment, many people sought refuge in nearby businesses, while others remained stoically in the square and received the lashes with smiles.

"Faith moves us, and it's actually a lot of adrenaline to have participated in this magnificent event and atone for all my sins," Carlos Ochoa told AFP.

"It's been a unique experience," added the 40-year-old public sector worker, who traveled almost 100 kilometers (62 miles) for the whipping.

The message "is that good will always prevail over evil," said Kevin Salguero, a 20-year-old talciguin.

The tradition, based on the temptations that Jesus faced in the desert, dates to the Spanish colonial era, when representations of biblical passages were presented to Indigenous people.

"We're the ones who don't let this tradition die," said Mauricio Avalos, a 24-year-old lawyer who has been a talciguin for five years.

Becoming a devil is not easy as there must be a vacancy, which happens only when a member dies or emigrates. There are no women among the talciguines.

The whipping ended at noon with the arrival of a man dressed as Jesus -- a role played this year by Elmer Sandoval, a 23-year-old soccer player.

Dressed in a purple tunic, he was received with applause from the crowd, which included foreign tourists.

With a cross in his left hand and a bell in his right, Jesus faced the talciguines, who fell to the ground.

Under the town rules, they are exempt from all blame for handing out lashes.

Holy Week starts on Palm Sunday when Christians remember Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem followed just days later by his trial, crucifixion, and death at the hands of the Romans, and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

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