Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Semana Santa (again)

I feel some obligation to convey the flavor of Holy Week in Seville, but admit to having some worries about being able to do it justice. Again, I'm going to resort to the bulleted list option, as it is somewhat less scary than having to construct some kind of internally consistent narrative.

  • Basic background. There are 57 different brotherhoods (hermandades or cofradías) involved in the various processions during Holy Week. As best I understand it, each one is associated with a particular church, and the procession involves taking certain relics, or images (e.g. of Christ, or his Blessed Mother), which are placed on display in a kind of monstrance, typically a covered wooden platform, on a certain prescribed route through the streets of the city until returning them to the church of origin. The images, or relics, will be surrounded by dozens, if not hundreds of white candles, and hundreds of flowers (for which the only permitted colours appear to be white or red). The members of the particular brotherhood, known as nazarenos, carry the platform high on a kind of stretcher, so that the images are visible to everyone watching the procession. It is these nazarenos who wear the Klu-Klux-Klan like robes which are a signature part of the Semana Santa celebrations. Depending on the confraternity, some of the members will also carry wooden crosses commemorating the passion; most of the hermandades also have their own (brass) band.
  • To accommodate all 57 cofradías, each with its own preferred route, the processions are tightly scheduled. Rain is an ever-present threat, and a great disappointment if it happens; because of the fragile nature of many of the (wooden) icons, even mild rain can cause a procession to be canceled, and because of the large number of processions in such a short time frame, no rescheduling is possible. (This may not be strictly true for the larger, most established, hermandades whose processions originate and end at the cathedral).
  • Names of the different confraternities can be derived from the region of the city with which they are associated (la Macarena) or from the profession whose medieval guild was the originating organization (los Panaderos). Dig a little deeper and you will find a hilariously ornate name behind the usual shorthand: Real, Ilustre, Fervorosa y Pontificia Hermandad y Archicofradía de Nazarenos del Santo Rosarío, Nuestra Padre Jesus de la Sentencia y Maria Santisima de la Esperanza Macarena Coronada, por ejemplo. And whatever you're having yourself. Make mine a Cruzcampo.
  • If that last remark seems insufficiently respectful, it should be noted that the Sevillanos who benefit most during Semana Santa are clearly the bar- and restaurant-owners. Given eight consecutive days where the whole city appears to spend every waking hour wandering the streets, they have to be making out like bandits. Indeed, one can't help but wonder if the bandits aren't having a high time of it this week as well - there can't be anyone home, and opportunities for pickpockets are rife. Three times in the past 48 hours I've overheard the Skype-powered phone calls of foreigners calling in to report the loss of one or more credit cards.
  • All well and good, but what's it like? The best analogy I can come up with is that, since about 2pm on Sunday afternoon, going out on the street is to enter the kind of scene you might expect as if a huge rock concert had just come to an end (los Rollings, por ejemplo). Wall-to-wall people, with a kind of generalized festive feeling. Except with more strollers than after a rock concert. Many more strollers. Often wielded expertly, charmingly, as weapons. ¡Yeah, lady, I get it - you have the two most charming kids on the whole Iberian peninsula, but frankly, woman you forfeited any possible right to the moral high ground when you lit up that Winston's right as you leaned over to adjust the cutesy dress on your two-year-old, so don't you try giving me el malojo, you bruja!
  • Just think for a moment, and let what I just said sink in. ¿Do you have any idea what that's like, after 48 hours? Seriously irritating, that's what it's like. I love a nice, tightly-packed, crowd of foreign strangers, yapping along in a language I can barely understand, as much as the next introvert, but - seriously - enough is enough.
  • ¿Is there anywhere else I'd rather be right now? ¡Hell no - of course not! I´m having the time of my life.
  • ¿What´s that? ¡You were expecting some kind of internal logical consistency from this blog! Not this week, apparently.

1 comment:

Pb said...

Haaving just taught in Kennesaw, GA, a Ku Klux Klan stronghold, these images confound me. The Klan hated Catholics and Jews as well as Black people, so how did they come up w/ their hooded regalia? They also use red and white.