Anna's Journey

Semana Santa

In Sanlucar la Mayor on April 22, 2011 at 7:40 pm

If you ask a resident of Sanlucar la Mayor about Semana Santa, you might receive an answer such as: “I believe the Virgin signifies the adoration of the woman”, or “I don’t see why religion has to be paraded through the streets”, or simply, “I just don’t like it”. Everyone has a different take, and depending on whom you ask, Semana Santa is either the most important week of the year, or the most frustrating, as no stores are open and bars raise their prices to astronomical highs.

Let’s take a step back.

Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is the week before Easter. Every day represents a different day in the week before the death of Christ. Sevilla is the epicenter of Semana Santa in Spain, and possibly the world. Sanlucar la Mayor holds a miniature version of the events. Each afternoon, the pasos – giant, enormously heavy scenes depicting an image of the Holy Week, adorned with silver and gold – are carried by 40 men through the streets. Each man carries 40 kilos, or the equivalent of about 80 pounds, on his back for hours at a time. By the end, their shoulders and necks are giant and swollen, sometimes bloody. Often they walk the streets without shoes. The pasos are accompanied by hundreds – and in Sevilla, over a thousand – of Nazarenos, or people dressed in floor length silk robes with giant pointy hat that only show their eyes. Americans will recognize this costume as that adopted by the KKK. People pay their hermandades (brotherhoods) each month of the year for to walk with the pasos as a Nazareno. And when it rains, as it did this Thursday, the entire event is canceled.

In Sevilla, Semana Santa is something like Times Square at New Year’s, so I happily stayed in our town for the celebrations. Each day, I watched the pasos carried slowly down the tiny streets, followed by the solemn beat of drums and siren of trumpets. I observed the Nazarenos, many of whom are women, marching alongside the pasos, and stopping to chat with neighbors or hold their candles above the waiting hands of the crowd, letting wax drippings add to giant balls that have been collected for years. I watched a figurine of the Virgin, in a long velvet robe under a canopy of silver, with hundreds of candles and flowers beneath her, seem to float down the street. I must admit, while I didn’t – couldn’t – understand, I was shocked for a moment into silence at the beauty of her sad, sad porcelain face.

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