In Spain, as in many Catholic countries, Semana Santa (Holy Week, the week before Easter) is a huge deal. Not only do most employees and students get a week of vacation, but many cities have processions throughout the week. Sevilla, specifically, is known as “the place to be” during the festivities.
Although the processions officially began on Sunday, we decided to celebrate early by taking a quick day trip to the beach on Saturday. We went to a nearby beach (about an hour away) called Matalascañas. We spent all day soaking up the salt and sun and topped it all off with tapas and gelato.
Plam Sunday, however, is when the real fun began in Sevilla. It is hard to describe the processions to someone who has never seen it before, but I’ll give it my best try. Basically, there are massive parades where thousands of people walk and/or carry a giant pasos (statues) that depict Biblical stories.Throughout Sevilla, there are many Hermandades, or brotherhoods, that each belong to a specific church in the area. Each of these “fraternities” prepares a procession and carries a paso throughout the streets. The people (there are SO MANY) who are walking in the procession or carrying the paso are performing an act of penitence.
There are a few typical “characters” and costumes of the procession, which I think is pretty interesting. The most recognizable are the Nazarenos, who wear a somewhat controversial uniform. The Nazarenos wear capes and hats that strongly resemble those of the KKK. It is important to note that there is NO connections between the beliefs of the two groups. The Nazarenos, however, are a little scary at first sight. It is a relief when they start handing out candy to children watching the procession! In addition to the Nazarenos, there are also the Costaleros. The Costaleros are very strong men who train all year to carry the pasos. Obviously, these statues are incredibly heavy! The Costaleros have to switch places under the float every fifteen minutes or so. When they come out from under the paso, they all have welts on their necks from where the paso rests. The dedication of the Costaleros, the Nazarenos, and the entire city of Sevilla to this tradition is just incredible. Semana Santa was truly something spectacular to see. The craziest part is that this happens all day for the entire week. And it is always crowded with tons of people in the street.