domingo, 12 de abril de 2009

I thought my Jesus piece was so harmless

I'm sure when Kanye West wrote the lyrics that title this blog, he didn't have Semana Santa in Sevilla on his mind (Actually, the song is CLEARLY about diamonds from Sierra Leone, therefore having absolutely nothing to do with Semana Santa or this blog for that matter). However, with the mass amount of 'Jesus pieces' (again, not literally bling, like Kanye's lyrics) floating around Sevilla this week, it felt appropriate.

So yeah, Semana Santa is probably one of the most strange spectacles I've ever seen. It starts on Palm Sunday and lasts until Easter. Each day, there are processions that go on paths around the city, eventually reaching the Cathedral in the center, then turning around and doing the damn thang all over again. The processions themselves are just WEIRD, especially for me as an American... why, you may ask? Well, let's see. Here is the costume of choice for the Nazarenos, people from each church who accompany their 'paso,' which I'll get to later:

No, these aren't KKK Members; these are the outfits that the Nazarenos wear. And I gotta tell you, even after a week of this going on, you don't get used to a guy (or girl) in a cloak and pointy hat walking around the city, waiting for a bus, eating a sandwich, etc. In fact, I laid by the Guadalquivir two days this week and got scared shitless each time I looked up at the Triana bridge and saw this:

Not a klansmen, not a dementor, not the devil -- they're Nazarenos, and there are thousands of them roaming Sevilla during Semana Santa.

Another weird thing about Semana Santa are the pasos, the 'Jesus pieces,' if you will. They are these absolutely ENORMOUS stage-like things with either a) Jesus or b) The Virgin Mary on top for the ride. They are also usually dripping in gold/silver, candles, flowers, etc... the Virgin's paso is also always covered by a little canopy of sorts. But yeah, these things are massive and are carried purely by the manpower of each hermandad, or church group, that is responsible for the procession. That explains why the pasos usually move about 30 feet, stop for 5 minutes, then start up again... these Jesus pieces are NOT harmless in the 'straining your back' department. It's a serious job. They also add creepy trumpet-ish music to most pasos. The good news is, though, that the pasos are gorgeous. Case in point:


I saw several pasos throughout the week, but the one that sticks out in my mind is El Silencio, part of La Madrugada, the nighttime procession that starts really early Friday morning, aka in the middle of the night. We waited over an hour in a hoard of Spanish people to see this paso, one of the best, supposedly. Well... the lights go out, everyone freaks out and starts "SHHH"-ing because it's coming... and then it doesn't come for another 45 minutes. Still, with no sign of the paso in any way, shape or form, people continue shhhhhh-ing like we are in kindergarten. Because I'm so punny, I kept saying, "Silencioooo." Then, once it started, we could literally see nothing. My honest and spoken reaction was, "There could be a freakin UNICORN out there and I wouldn't know." Finally, the Jesus paso turned the corner. Yes, it was lovely, but it lasted about 2 minutes (THAT'S what she said). That was my only real paso experience. I saw two cross the Triana bridge, and another I followed home from the airport to our house. In my opinion, once you've seen one or two, you've seen 'em all.


Another thing about Semana Santa to point out is the level of intensity that the Sevillanos feel about Semana Santa. They live it and breathe it for the week. For example, my senora literally was gone from lunch (done at 3 pm) til 2 am every day from Sunday til Thursday to watch pasos. When at home, she also either listened to radio coverage or caught the news feed on TV of each paso. It's unreal. I also find it unreal that the entire city is off from work because of Semana Santa. Would we ever have off for a religous holiday in the US for that long? Um, no. Finally, I find it odd how intense Spanish people are about Semana Santa because they're just not that religious anymore. Granted, the old people are usually very strong believers, but other than that, the population is just kind of ehhh about religion. But when Semana Santa rolls around, they are polishing up those pointy hats and capes to rock the streets. It's all weird to me.

In closing, I'd like to take a quick look at how Sevillanos acknowledge Semana Santa through the ever important a) souvenirs and b) art.

This is absolutely hilarious that anyone would want to buy a piece of candy shaped like this:

I honestly want to bring them home to everyone I know. "My friend went to Spain and all I got was this lousy candy klansmen." No, but really, wouldn't you feel uncomfortable eating a lollipop in the shape of a Nazareno? The pointy cap is also unfortunate and looks to have the capacity to pierce the tongue of a small child. Also available are incense burners and plain ol' figurines in the shape of these dudes.

Probably my favorite find of the week, however, came in passing this airbrushed masterpiece in the center of town:

I mean... are you SERIOUS? This, I kid you not, is a TRASH CAN. And a large one at that. I seriously had to stop and stare for a while... would this not scare you shitless/make you a future litterer if this is what you had to face down while innocently throwing away your trash? He not only looks like he's about to stab you with his stake, but he's also clearly trapped in the fiery pits of hell. I don't know if fear is the goal of Semana Santa, but it worked for me.

Like I said before, Semana Santa is definitely a worthwhile cultural experience, but not worthy of a full week's attention. I prefer afternoons by the river and evenings in da club than hours in a mob catching only a fleeting glimpse of a blingin' paso. Maybe I'm just un-godly, but that's my take on this crazy week.

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