Semana Santa 2016

ss 16 (2)people waiting for processions, contemplating that other Great Power… 4G

After last year’s “warning” 😉 about coming to Sevilla during Semana Santa, followed by the Twitter shit storm inadvertently caused by me posting this photo on Instagram, I am going to stick with a simple photo essay this year. It was a lovely and gentle Semana Santa for me, running into some processions by happenstance, seeking out others on purpose, and generally enjoying the ambiance since most of my time wasn’t spent in La Bulla (the very Sevillano name for the crush of humanity that congregates on the procession routes). And while I’d never actually choose to get caught up in a serious bulla, I have learned over the years that when this happens, just relax and ride it out. Though it does help to know which little side streets will get you off the main route, and after more than 23 years in Sevilla I am quite experienced in “procession dodging” when I actually need to get somewhere. So for Semana Santa 2016 here are 16 pics I took while out and about this week…

ss 16 (1)mini-nazareno

ss 16 (10)the San Bernardo procession in Cuesta del Rosario

ss 16 (14)chairs galore! Plaza San Franciso

ss 16 (13)Cristo de la Fundación, San Bernardo

ss 16 (12)Los Negritos

ss 16little boy waiting for the next procession

ss 16 (11)group of people from nursing home with “preferred seating” supplied by local bars

ss 16 (9)Virgen de los Ángeles, Los Negritos

ss 16 (8)elegant ladies dressed “de luto” (in mourning)

ss 16 (7)Cristo de la Salud, Los Gitanos

ss 16 (5)costaleros taking a break

ss 16 (6)off-duty Centurian posing for pics

ss 16 (15)María Santísima de la Esperanza Macarena

ss 16 (4)Cristo de la Expiración (El Cachorro)

ss 16 (3)
El Cachorro was created in 1682 by Francisco Antonio Ruiz Gijón. It depicts Jesús at the moment of dying on the cross (Cristo de la Expiración) and is a splendid and very moving work of art. Legend has it that the artist found a gypsy dying in the street in Triana and his face was the inspiration for his Christ. This is one of my favourite processions though I don’t get to see it every year. Glad I made time for it yesterday.

The longer I live in Sevilla the more I see and read accounts of my beloved adopted city by various expat bloggers living here, or by travel writers passing through, and while some are good and honest accounts (I don’t have to agree with them all) there are also many that are frankly just crap. My feeling is… DON’T write about something you haven’t actually experienced first hand. Also, try to approach your topic with an open mind, not with an already fixed agenda. Sometimes I wonder if some of these travel writers have actually been here. And as for the massive expat community here… as long as you are still calling somewhere else “home”, I wonder if you’ll ever really experience Sevilla – or Spain – other than through foreign eyes looking at a foreign culture. I’ve never thought of anywhere else as “home” since arriving in Spain back in 1992. And while I love showing visitors the joys of Sevilla, I guess also feel very protective. Because it is my only home.

Nazareno Nonsense

nazarenos de verdadHere are some nazarenos doing what nazarenos are supposed to do. Which is basically to don the robes of a penitent and, well, do penance. The number of nazarenos varies from brotherhood to brotherhood, sometimes they can be as many as 2000 or more, and a procession of that size, depending on where it starts from, can last up to 14 hours. That’s a lot of penance.

el silencioLast night I went out for the Madrugá to see my absolute favourite procession here, El Silencio. I’ve only seen it a few times in my 23 years in Sevilla, mostly because it runs from 1 to 6 am. A relatively short five hours, but also during the hours I am usually attempting to sleep. What I love about this procession is that, instead of a big marching band, the musical accompaniment for each paso is an oboe, clarinet and bassoon, which creates an eerily beautiful ambiance. The other thing I love is that the paso of the Virgin (Santa María de la Concepción) is all silver and white, and that her flowers are simple bouquets of orange blossom.

Anyhoodle, last night I actually got to watch her pass by twice, by deftly winding through back streets in the wee hours, and I felt that had been reason enough to haul myself out of bed at 4 am. But on the way home we literally ran into Los Gitanos – I turned a corner thinking the coast was clear and THERE THEY WERE…

los gitanosSeriously, I almost got run over by those guys leading the way, though I still managed a quick blurry pic before scrambling onto the pavement. So we decided to stick around and at least watch the Jesús de la Salud pass by, especially as we were standing on the edge of the pavement and got a really good close-up view.

el senor los gitanosWhile waiting for the Christ paso to arrive the temperature took a sudden nose-dive and so once it had passed we decided to make our way home, and as luck would have it, this meant we walked straight into the Los Gitano virgin, Santa María de las Angustias Coronada, passing below the Setas.

virgen los gitanos

But on our way there we had passed behind the Encarnación Market and I was surprised to see it all lit up inside (this was 6.30 am) and also that a length of paper had been put up along the windows, almost but not quite blocking a view inside. What I could see were lots of feet and long robes, so of course my interest was piqued. And then I saw a spot where the paper had been torn away, so I had a look and there were a lot – and I mean a LOT – of very tired looking nazarenos and “centurians” taking a rest, eating and drinking (whether breakfast or something else I don’t know) and so I snapped a pic of a group of rather interesting looking guys standing at the market bar. And I put it up on my Instagram with the rest of my photos taken that night.

Well, suddenly my @azaharSevilla Twitter account started pinging like mad, with people either RTing or otherwise mentioning me. And it turned out it was all about this photo of some nazarenos having a break. Some people thought it was a disturbing sight, others called it Dantesque (huh?) and other criticized me for having uploaded the photo, saying I was being imprudent and could be reported and even sued. Hell, for a brief while I was actually TRENDING on Twitter (a first, and no doubt a last). All over one photo of some guys relaxing at a bar. Which I am not going to post here again, but here is a different one of another group of nazarenos I spotted on my way home, clearly all tuckered out. I’m assuming this one is okay because nobody is taking any refreshment.

nazarenso tuckered outNow, I do understand the concept that while the penitent is still wearing the garb they should respect what it stands for and should probably not be seen in public swigging a cold one. As many pointed out on Twitter, what sort of penance is that? And well, okay. But, as I mentioned earlier, I wonder why some penitents get off easier than others, simply because of the numbers. While watching Los Gitanos (one of the biggies) I saw several nazarenos stagger over to a nearby bar, clearly exhausted, for a cold drink. Is it really such a big deal that they maintain their piety and anonymity to the point of possible dehydration? And what about bathroom breaks, especially for those processions that last for up to 14 hours? How much penance is enough for one night?

I took the photo of the guys inside the market as a curiosity, because it showed nazarenos as people, and out of their usual situation. I wasn’t trying to show them as doing something wrong – that hadn’t even occurred to me. In fact, some of my favourite photos of nazarenos are shots of random pointy-hooded penitents casually wandering up a street, walking with friends, having a ciggie break, whatever. So I really hadn’t expected the Twitter shitstorm that happened over my Instagram pic. All I can say is, it’s a good thing I didn’t post the one of the nazareno wearing earphones plugged into their mobile device…

Semana Santa 2011

only in Sevilla…

Next week is Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Sevilla, starting on Palm Sunday, April 17th. For those who haven’t experienced, or don’t know about it, it’s all about the processions – more than sixty of them during the course of the week, including those of the Madrugá on the Thursday night through to Friday morning. Each procession carries statues of the Christ and the Virgin from its home church to the Cathedral and back again, accompanied by nazarenos and penitentes carrying candles and crosses, and the distinctive music of the Semana Santa marching bands.

Because this is the largest and most elaborate celebration of its kind in the world, people come from all over Spain and even further afield to see it. With such large crowds, especially in the centre and around the cathedral, it is almost impossible for the residents to live normal lives, and for the last 18 years I’ve spent most of Semana Santa pretty much trapped in my flat just up the street from the cathedral. But this year I will be spending it in my new home near the Alfalfa for the first time, and I really don’t know what to expect in the way of crowds and inconvenience.

In retrospect it seems almost prescient that I took this video last year of the Santa Cruz procession, which plays my favourite marcha, the haunting La Madrugá by Abel Moreno. Little did I know that it was going to be the last time I would watch it go past below my bedroom balconies…