On Saturday night in La Merced, a barrio in the southeast corner of Mexico City's historic center, residents gathered in a public square and looked on with delight as a paper mache effigy of Donald Trump exploded and burst into flames.
The symbolic destruction of the Donald was part of a traditional Catholic or Orthodox ritual held annually on the Saturday before Easter. Participants have historically burned representations of Judas Iscariot, the biblical embodiment of deceit who betrayed Jesus, but the holiday has evolved over the years, and "Judas" often takes other forms — like the current frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.
Leonardo Linares, a fourth generation artisan in Mexico City, specializes in making Judas-like effigies for Easter weekend. His great-grandfather, Pedro Linares, employed over 300 people in the 1950s to make Judases to sell citywide when the tradition was at peak popularity. The number of people burning effigies has since waned, but this year Mexicans rallied around a common enemy: The wispy-haired billionaire who wants to build a giant wall along the southern US border.
Trump's controversial immigration plan has been a cornerstone of his campaign. In addition to building the wall, which he claims Mexico will pay for, the tycoon and reality TV star has accused Mexico of sending rapists and drug traffickers into the US.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has said his country will not pay for the wall, and compared Trump's "strident tone" to ascendant dictators like Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. "There have been episodes in human history, unfortunately, where these expressions of this strident rhetoric have only led to very ominous situations in the history of humanity," Peña Nieto told Mexico's Excelsior.
Linares told the Guardian that Trump's comments made him an "ideal candidate" for this year's Judas. "With all of the stupid things he has said about Mexicans, I thought people would like to see him burning as Judas," Linares said.
Mexican media reported that Trump was a popular effigy choice across the country.
Linares said it's generally rare for Mexicans to choose a foreign figure as the effigy to burn in the Holy Saturday tradition. He recalled that former US President George W Bush and former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein were both big hits back in 2003, the year the US invaded Iraq.
Linares added that he was planning on burning a second figure, a masked Islamic State militant wearing devil horns, which he said was inspired by the recent terror attacks in Brussels. He also said that he didn't see much difference between the terror group and the GOP frontrunner. "They're the same," he said.
He also made effigies of Peña Nieto and Elba Esther Gordillo, the head of Mexico's teachers union who currently faces criminal charges for embezzlement.
Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay, and other Latin Americans also partake in the effigy-burning tradition, as well as some communities in Greece, Spain, and Portugal.
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