Rota, Spain; Day 3

Reunited and it feels so good…

Our 6 Adventurers are now together in the town of Rota. It’s great to all be under one roof in the Spanish sunshine.

Tiffany, Tracy and Suarum left Seville for Rota this morning by car. The car pick up and 90 minute drive was a much easier experience than Barcelona and Madrid except for getting out of the neighborhood.

The biggest holiday time of year in Spain is not Christmas or New Years. It is Easter and the Holy Week leading up to it. Known as Semana Santa, it is celebrated all over the country but nowhere more than in Seville. From Palm Sunday to Easter the city commemorates the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.

The core events in Semana Santa are the processions of the brotherhoods, known as estación de penitencia or stations of penance. These have been happening in Seville since at least the year 1350. Around 70 of these processions take place over the course of the week – each starts at their home church or chapel, goes to the Cathedral of Seville and then returns home. The processions last anywhere from 4 to 14 hours and have a minimum hundreds but sometimes thousands of participants. It can take up to 90 minutes for a procession to pass a single point.

When we realized we were going to be in Seville for a cultural event of this significance, we knew we needed to seek out at least one of the processions to see it for ourselves. We did some searching for schedules/route maps as we were exploring on Wednesday but didn’t find anything that gave us confidence we could find one.

A schedule? We’re not sure

Our plan after the Plaza de España on Wednesday afternoon was to take a taxi back to the apartment, do some more research and go out in the evening to try to find a route. Our understanding was the processions happened in the evenings.

When our taxi was about 3 blocks from our apartment, the driver pulled over and said that was a far as he could take us, the road was blocked. As we walked up to the street, we realized we had happened upon a procession – right near our apartment. We felt so lucky. We were there almost at the beginning so we got to see quite a bit. We were thrilled.

The paso in the first procession we saw

Thursday was Holy Thursday which saw a large number of women dressing in La Mantilla – the traditional dress of black with a high veil.

Tracy got so excited to try to get a clandestine photo of some women wearing them that she fell down in the plaza.

Embarrassed but got the shot

We never did find a schedule or a route map, but our neighborhood was a central pathway coming from the east toward the Cathedral. Over the next 36 hours at least 7 Processionals went within 100 yards of where were staying. Each one we saw was full of pageantry and history and we felt truly lucky to see it. Even this morning when we had to walk 1/4 mile with our luggage to get past the police barricades the feeling stayed.

For those that want more details and pictures…here you go with a little help from Wikipedia.

The standard structure of a procession is:

1st- A great cross (the so-called Cruz de Guía – Guiding Cross) is carried at the beginning of each procession.

2nd – A number of people (sometimes barefoot) dressed in a habit and with the distinctive pointed hood (capirote) and holding long wax candles (only lit by night), marching in silence. These are the nazarenos. Each brotherhood has a distinctive habit.

3rd – a group of alter boys, acolytes dressed in vestments with chandeliers and incense.

5th – The central focus of the procession – the paso. There are up to three pasos in each procession. The pasos are an image or set of images set atop a moveable float of wood. They are richly carved structures decorated with flowers, fabric and candles. Some depict scenes of Jesus and are dedicated to him, some depict Mary. Many in Seville are considered historically significant, having been carried by the brotherhood since the 16th century.

A distinctive feature of Semana Santa in Seville is the style of marching of the pasos. The costaleros– a team of men supporting the beams upon their shoulders and necks, lift, move and lower the paso. The float can weigh up to one ton so it takes 20-55 men to carry them. As they are all inside the structure and hidden from the external view by a curtain, the paso seems to move by itself. The video shows the impressive act of turning it as the procession rounds a corner.

6th – sometimes a band follows the Paso, the ones we saw were all brass and the quality was variable. Many of them play music specially written for their Paso.

7th – A number of penitentes, carrying wooden crosses, making public penance. They wear the habit and the hood of the brotherhood, but the hood is not pointed.

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