Good Friday Procession Relies on Hands of Bronx Couple

Eva Muñiz, trying on a head-dress for the Virgin Mary character, with her husband Pedro Flores looking on in their Bronx home. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario-La Prensa)

With the help of an old Singer sewing machine in the living room her modest apartment, Eva Muñiz, 42, sews the clothing for some 25 actors of the Via Crucis procession of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, in the Bronx.

Muñiz, who is Mexican, participates in the procession as one of the women who mourn the death of Jesus. She has teamed up with her husband Pedro Flores, 46, the creative mind behind the colorful costumes and props.

Flores, a construction worker, said that the process starts a couple of months before Easter. He patiently observes movies like “The Passion of Christ” to get ideas and to rework the materials he buys at costume jewelry stores in Chinatown.

Every Roman soldier uniform costs about $80 to make. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario-La Prensa)

Using his bedroom as his workshop, Flores, who plays Pontius Pilate, designs tunics and stoles in bright fabrics. The makeshift tailor said that every costume costs about $80, which is more than what they charge in some costume stores.

“The Roman soldier uniform is sold at a price of $60, but we prefer to make it ourselves as part of a family tradition,” he said. “We are keen on working on details you don’t get in stores.”

Metallic vinyl with components imitating skin are part of the flexible armor the Roman legions wear. The garments include estoperoles (metallic ornaments) that Flores and his wife add in manually. Each piece of clothing involves a full day of work and some finger pricks.

Facing a limited budget of $6,000, collected by Latino parishioners through donations and selling meals, Flores taps his effervescent creativity to make an imposing line of clothing out of common materials.

A beach sandal, sprayed with gold paint and adorned with bright fabric, becomes an emperor’s shoe. A red brush from a kitchen broom is screwed to the typical Roman helmet.

Pedro Flores with a typical Roman helmet made with a kitchen broom. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario-La Prensa)

Eva Muñiz, who for several years has been embroidering for the Via Crucis processions of several churches in The Bronx, said that one single uniform requires two yards of metallic vinyl, which costs about $40.

The total cost of the 25 pieces of clothing is about $2,000. The actors — mostly Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and Mexicans — reenact the Via Crucis at St. Joseph Church, near Bathgate Ave.

Muñiz, who has been working in city factories since 1989, said that this job allows her the opportunity to give back to the community. For the couple, the volunteering work also helps them bring a Latino touch to the traditional Via Crucis.

Flores, who in 1997 wrote the play for  St. Joseph Church’s Via Crucis, said that in the past, they used hand-painted stage backdrops, but for the past couple of years, they have been using vivid visual effects through video projections and sound effects.

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