Journals from Sevilla, Spain - Center for Cross-Cultural Studies
2011-04-24 Semana Santa - Rain vs. Nazarenos
Nazarenos proceeding the Virgin Mary paso, decked with flowers and candles.
Spain is still a Catholic country, albeit one filled with people who consider themselves poco practicantes, that is, not practicing Catholics. That doesn’t, however, change the fact that Semana Santa in Seville is one of the most important weeks in the calendar. The week, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday is filled with processions that draw tourists from all over the world. Well, in theory anyways. This year there were the massive amounts of tourists – I honestly didn’t know Seville could hold this many people – but the rain drove over half of the processions to cancellation. People were crying in the streets as the message slowly rippled through the crowd that due to the continuing rain, no processions would be going out that day. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, most of the processions opted to stay in the churches rather than take to the streets where the beautiful and old pasos (elaborate scenes from the life of Jesus or the grief of the Virgen Mary) might be irrevocably ruined.
So to be honest, I made it to only one procession throughout the entirety of Semana Santa because so many of the ones I had planned to attend were canceled. So at 4am on Easter Sunday morning my roommates and I found a place to stand near the church where the last procession of the week would begin. Once it did, it took a while to become accustomed to the nazarenos, whose costumes were appropriated and distorted by the Ku Klux Klan.
Watching the procession was a really interesting experience. While I’m not a religious person in any way, I still felt a great respect for it. However, that respect clearly didn’t translate in quite the same way for the Spaniards. There’s no equivalent of Semana Santa in the United States, but even huge parades have some modicum of rules of respect. For instance, you don’t walk in among the people in the procession or reach out a hand to talk to the paraders. Yet those were quite common occurrences here. As the two pasos passed us, the first of the Resurrection and the second of the Virgin Mary, a near silence fell, punctured only by a few people loudly talking and those who shushed them.
It was a unique experience, standing among so many people watching the procession pass, some of whom had probably seen this every year they remember, some of whom had children walking as nazarenos, some of whom didn’t speak a word of Spanish but were devotedly Catholic, and some of whom didn’t believe but did respect. It was certainly worth staying up late and going out at 4am.