Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Semana Santa


Semana Santa has begun full swing here in Seville and I must say, I’m enjoying it immensely. It began on Palm Sunday, Domingo de Ramos. On Sunday, I went to 12pm Mass with my Senora at la iglesia de San Lorenzo. We sat towards the back as there were hardly any seats. The church was packed and it was hard to concentrate as people kept coming into the church to look at the floats, in Spanish, pasos, and then they left. It was frustrating because while such an important event as the Mass was happening, it became secondary to the floats with statues. It was so crowded in the church that I wasn’t even able to get to Communion in time.
My Senora gave me the traditional blessed olive branch, as she said palms would be too expensive to give to everyone. On the main alter however, there were some beautiful palms that were made into detailed designs. The two floats in the church were exquisite with statues that are quite realistic and life size. The bases are covered in flowers, gold, candles, and miniature statues.
Afterwards, my senora and her sister invited me to take a walk with them. We stopped into a café, Dos D Mayo, and had a small bite and drinks. They ordered a plate of croquetas, which are small fried balls filled with a thick, creamy blend of meat and cheese. I had peach juice, which is something I found that’s very good here in Seville after they offered it to me in the hospital.
After strolling around a bit, Paqui showed me where her seats are for Semana Santa and then we headed back to the casa. We stopped at the panaderia, bread shop, and she bought her bread for the day and I bought this pastry that was delicious. It was a long powdered donut filled with a thick custard. Reminded me a lot of long johns from home.
I went out to try and watch some of the pasos, but as I didn’t yet buy a booklet, I had no clue which ones were where and what time. The streets were packed and it’s quite a puzzle to figure out the best way to get to your destination. I would go down one street, just to turn back around because it was packed or there were police that restricted access.
I got a hold of my friend Maria, who lives in Seville and loves Semana Santa. When I met up with her, she and her friends were all dressed up. They were in dresses and dangerously high heels. Semana Santa is the time when everyone brings out their spring clothes and dress up to watch the floats.
We walked around for a bit, catching a couple floats passing by and then we headed to the shoe store of Maria’s friend. Her friend’s family owns this shoe store with balconies that face the Cathedral. An amazing and perfect location.
I had such a good time meeting Maria’s friends and watching the floats enter the Cathedral. It was interesting being around a group of people close to my age, and only hearing spanish. I'm quite a talker as most of you know, but I felt so silent around everyone. I could understand most of what was being said, but formulating anything to add to the conversations was difficult because it takes me a bit to figure out in my head what I want to say. I think the problem is I'm thinking of too complicated of things to say, that I would readily say in English. But trying to translate them into spanish is another thing. Her friend, Pilar, was extremely nice and served us tons of good food.
Maria pointed out that a lot of people like to touch the floats, which she doesn’t like, because it ruins them, taking off the gold coating. Also, I could see children taking balls and holding them under the candles of the Nazarenos, the people who wear the outfits we recognize as being similar to the KKK, although they are definitely NOT! Maria said that the children collect wax over the years to remember Semana Santa. Also, some of the Nazerenos hand out candy to children. It depends on how strict the Hermandad is and what they allow. A Hermandad is a brotherhood, group of people that belong to a certain church and each Hermandad has approximately two floats, one of the Virgen Mary and one of Jesus Christ. For example la Hermandad de los Estudiantes belongs to el Rectorado de la Universidad. They have two pasos, El Cristo de la Buena Muerte (Christ of the Good Death) and la Virgen de la Angustia (Virgen of Anguish). They also have about 1,500 Nazarenos.
Alter watching the pasos for a time at Maria’s friend’s, we left to save a good spot to watch La Virgen de la Amargura which was to pass at one o’clock. Maria really wanted to see this one because they bring the Virgen past a convent, where it stops. The doors of the convent open, and the nuns sing to the Virgin. It was a really beautiful sight and gave me goosebumps. Maria even cried and said she always gets emotional for this one.
Watching statues of Blessed Virgin and Jesus pass to the sounds of the bands give you a feeling of devotion that’s contagious. All the floats are carried by men called costaleros. There are about fifty under the float and carry them for approximately eight hours. Also, at certain points, everyone becomes silent and you can hear what they call a Saeta. It is a flamenco style of singing and is very expressive, unlike any style of music I heard before.
I arrived home at around three in the morning. I must say, Semana Santa in Seville is a wonder. The amount of people, the traditions, and the spirit will remain forever as cherished memories.

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