Saturday, May 15, 2010

Semana Santa

Where: Train to Prague
Listening to: Revolution by Miranda Lambert
Word of the day: "nazareno"

Semana Santa is Holy Week in Spain. Sevilla has a special week-long festival in honor of it that dates back to the medieval times. Each church has an hermandad or fraternidad (sorority or fraternity directly translated) that makes a series of floats called pasos (above, me with the Virgin de la Macarena) that parade through the city on a certain day. The pasos are the same every year and depict a stage in Christ’s life or Mary, formed from wood or metals. Men called costaleros carry the paso by holding slabs of wood up with their shoulders underneath the heavy floats. To proect themselves, they wear costals, a special head and neck covering of fabric. The pasos are so heavy that they can weigh up to five metric tons. The costaleros have to walk in a uniform manner with their legs locked together, slowly processing through the uneven streets of Sevilla. In the weeks leading up to Semana Santa, we would often see them around the Cathedral practicing the walk. Some churches even have a band that accompanies them.
I went down to the Cathedral by myself on Palm Sunday to grab some lunch and ended up staying to watch. This is the most crowded time in Sevilla. It is so crowded that the locals often go out of town to avoid all the tourists. The beautiful procession enchanted everyone watching it. However, it was more fascinating to me to know that there were men carrying these immense structures and to see the nazarenos.
Nazarenos are the people that lead the procession. They were originally always men, but now they have some women. They often carry candles called velas or a cross. Their outfits are perhaps the most intriguing for a tourist because of what it looks like to us Americans—a Ku Klux Klan outfit. The KKK in fact stole their uniforms from the Sevillanos. However, they have absolutely no relation. Each floor-length robe is in the color of the corresponding church with an emblem on either the front or the side. The hats look exactly like the KKK’s. For Spaniards, it is a symbol of not knowing who the nazarenos are and that we are all identical sinners.
It was a little creepy since I was so used to their uniforms meaning fear and hatred, not as symbols of the Church. At times there would be lines of hundreds of them. Even the advertising depicted them—there’s a symbol with different meanings that my professors would enjoy!! Overall it was an interesting thing to watch, but I could understand why everyone we talked to didn’t enjoy Semana Santa as much as Feria.

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