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"I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things." --Antoine de St-Exupery

Friday, April 29, 2011

Semana Santa and Arab Baths

Last week we had off of school for Semana Santa. Unfortunately, as I said in my last post, it was expected to be rainy for most of the week. It was. I still was able to see some of the things that go on luckily.

So, Semana Santa in Sevilla is a big deal. Starting Palm Sunday and going through Easter, cofradias go through the city. These are processionals with two floats (usually) included in each. The floats are called pasos, one of Christ and the other of the Virgin Mary. Sometimes a third float is included that is of a scene. Each cofradia is put on by a religious brotherhood that starts at the home church and makes its way to the Cathedral and then loops back. I think the first actual brotherhood was formed in the early 1400's, but that could be wrong.

To start the cofradia, there is a cross carried followed by nazarenos. These are people dressed in outfits that look like the KKK with their pointed hoods. Not all of them wear white though. They wear the colors of the religious brotherhood. Some of the nazarenos walk barefoot which is pretty painful on the cobblestone. They do this as a penance. The number of nazarenos can range from the hundreds to the thousands. It all depends on the number of people in the brotherhood. Anyone can be a nazareno. We saw a lot of little kids, but obviously they did not walk for the whole time. The nazarenos also hand out candy :) They walk before the pasos, after the band, in between, all over. I'm sure there is an actual order to it, but that too can be distinctive to each brotherhood.

Nazarenos. They hold the long candles so that they can see at night.


A little nazareno taking a break :)

Heading over the bridge
Then there is a group of alter boys before each paso with incense and other such things.

The floats are carried by men called costaleros. Weeks before Semana Santa I had seen people carrying something walking in the street around midnight and I had no idea what it was. Now I realize they were practicing for Semana Santa. During the cofradia (which can last up to 14 hours depending on how far the home church is from the Cathedral), the men take breaks and put down the float and after a while, they switch men. Some of the men we saw had wounds on their neck from holding it up. The actual floats are very very detailed and some were made way back in the 16th century. A lot of tradition.

This was when I saw them about six weeks ago practicing at night

Un paso de Cristo

La Virgen

A cofradia that had a scene paso called "misterio"

People who live in the apartments throw flower petals on the pasos. Very pretty sight.

Some costaleros on a break on the right. That's their protective headgear...basically towels
Some cofradias have a band after each paso and after the paso of Christ, sometimes there are people who dress like the nazarenos (but not exactly) who carry crosses.

As for the crowd, if you want to see a paso while it's sitting in the church waiting for the cofradia to start, you are basically going to touch every person you pass. It is like being at a very very crowded concert where you pretty much can't move. Add heat to that equation and then you understand why there are ambulances around the corner. Last year my 21-year-old host sister Maria was taken away in an ambulance due to a heat stroke.

The day that each cofradia goes out is the same every year. They have these little booklets that tell you which ones are going out and has a map for each day and also give you streets and times where each cofradia should pass. Very handy and necessary.

However, as I said, this year was very rainy. Hardly any cofradias went out on Tuesday, none Thursday (which is supposed to be the best of the best), maybe one on Friday and maybe one on Saturday. On Sunday there is only one cofradia and luckily it was very nice out for that one. On the news, they would update everyone about every ten mintues about when pasos will leave the church and if they will. There is also one news station that covers only Semana Santa ongoings for the week. People crying filled the screens this year. They have been practicing and getting ready for so long and then to not be able to go? I can see why. And with all the tradition it can be very sad. I guess this was the second year no cofradias went out on Holy Thursday so people were very very upset. Everyone can still go and visit the pasos in the church, but it is far from the same.

On Wednesday I saw about four pasos. One we saw as it went over a bridge and we were able to see it very well. We stayed in the same spot for the whole thing and were there for about 2 and a half hours, so it was one that had a smaller brotherhood but it was also the longest in the sense that the home church was the furthest away from the Cathedral. After that, we went closer to the Cathedral since that is where all of the cofradias are headed. It was harder to see in that area because there were a lot more people, but it was still very neat.

Due to rain, we didn't do anything Thursday or Friday. Then on Saturday, we went to Pili's mom's house for dinner. I know Pili's family well now, so it was a very relaxing meal for the nine of us. It wasn't anything fancy, just a spread of mostly different types of fish on the table in the livingroom, people wearing pjs, etc, but it was still nice to get together. I think they threw this dinner together more for me since I was sort of starting to go stir crazy in the house doing nothing the three previous days.

On Sunday my host parents and I went to the final cofradia which was in Pepe's (my host dad) sisters' neighborhood so I was able to meet his side of the family. We went out for tapas after being very very crowded in the streets trying to see the pasos, but again, I think we went more for my sake. They kept saying how they can't remember the last time they saw one on a Sunday since there's only one and it's in a different neighborhood. I really appreciated them coming with me, it was just a very different Easter than what I normally have at home. I didn't see my host sister's until around 11pm that night whereas at home, my whole family gets together.

All of that got me to thinking about the assumption that Spain is very family oriented. I think this is true in the sense that basically the whole extended family lives in the same city so they see each other very often. In the sense of doing actually big family get togethers though, I think that is more characteristic of America since families tend to be more spread out. I've talked with a few other friends about this who are in homestays and they think the same thing. We were all kind of shocked that Easter Sunday was not a huge day for them when they had this huge buildup of a week.

I skype called my brother that day so I could talk with a lot of my extended family since a lot of us get together the celebrate. It was nice to talk to everyone! People here have been asking me if I'm ready to go home and I've been sort of back and forth, but talking to my family has made me that much more excited to come home, which is a lot better than feeling depressed about leaving.

This week, I had a final paper due and two presentations, so it's been pretty busy. I have one more paper, finals, and then that's all! I still feel like I have a lot to see in Sevilla and things to experience, so I'll have to make time. One thing that I did today was go and get an arab bath. There was a competition in our program between 11 groups of about four people where we would get a list of things to find in the city and had to take a picture with those things. Each person/place/thing was a certain number of points and you had to get it in by 5pm on Fridays. Well, my group won first place. The prize was an arab bath for each of us. This included three different bathing areas: 1) an area with a hot bath, a cold bath, and a warm bath, 2) an area with a sauna and jacuzzi, and 3) a saltwater bath. We had an hour and a half to go between all of these areas, drink mint tea, and, the best part, find time to fit in our 15 minute masage. It was amazing, to say the least.

Our group: Emily, Spencer, me, and Kaitlan with a famous flamenco singer we had to take a picture with
I'm now off school again for another week and a half due to the Feria de Sevilla which I will explain next time. Hopefully I'll have time to post before I head to Prague next Thursday, but if not, happy Mother's Day to all the mothers!!

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