Publications and Research

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2006


"Holy Wednesday" is a late sixteenth century adaptation of a Spanish auto sacramental (sacred play) written in alphabetized Nahuatl, the predominant pre-Columbian language spoken on the High Central Plateau of Mexico. The author remains unknown, however he was likely a Nahua amanuensis educated by Franciscans at Colegio de Santa Cruz in Tlatelolco. Religious drama was one of the important evangelizing tools of the Catholic brotherhoods in colonial Mexico and although a record of performance of Holy Wednesday does not exist, this dramatic depiction of the final meeting of Christ and Mary prior to the crucifixion was almost certainly performed as part of Holy Week celebrations.

This paper reads the play "Holy Wednesday" as it performs in wider social and linguistic frames and as a subject of two critical modes: transculturation and performativity. Likely staged on a church patio by the Franciscans with Nahua boy actors, "Holy Wednesday" intermingles European and Nahua collaborators, audiences, languages, and religious tropes while documenting the uprooting of pre-Columbian culture and development of an entirely new ritual performance form differing from both parent cultures in fundamental ways.


This article originally appeared in The Journal of Religino and Theatre, available at



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.