As we walked Sevilla’s labyrinth of streets, my friend snapped pictures of the yellow and white buildings, the cathedral and the lush, green patios. Meanwhile, my camera remained nestled all lonely in my purse. It was my third trip to the city and I wasn’t as inspired by the usual sites.
But then, suddenly, I spotted a humble statue of the Virgin Mary wedged up above into the corner of one of Sevilla’s quaint little buildings. I grabbed my camera and captured a quick shot. Walking another 100 feet, I reached for my camera again – above me yet another Mary, but this one colorful, made of tiles, and flanked by two lanterns. Every few blocks or so, I would spot her thoughtfully displayed on the yellow-trimmed facades. With each one I grew more bewildered and hypnotized by her sorrowful gaze and how she was almost always showered in radiant colors of blue, gold and red. I was becoming engulfed in my own little scavenger hunt, scanning the city walls to see where I might find her next.
I suppose during my several visits to Sevilla it had never occurred to me the excess of Marys around the city. Living in Spain has gotten me quite used to the abundance of Catholic images, street names and, well, people names. (The names “Inmaculada” or “Concepción” no longer perplex me – that said, I don’t think they are on my short list of future baby names.) While I’m not a particularly religious person (I’ll go with the very cliched “I’m spiritual”), I find myself fascinated by these symbols, such as Mary, as much for their beauty as for what they say about the culture. And who wouldn’t be curious about the image of this stunning lady, plastered throughout one of Spain’s most famous cities?
So then, you may ask – why so many Marys, Sevilla? Well, it turns out that the city is an especially Catholic one, not to mention that it happens to be famed for hosting Spain’s most famous processions during Holy Week. When this religious week arrives, people flock to Sevilla to witness float-like structures (often of the Virgin Mary) hauled solemnly across the city. Onlookers watch in admiration, clamoring to get near it, as though it were the Pope himself. Needless to say, Mary is quite a famous lady in this country, but even more so in Sevilla.
Beyond just the Marys, Sevilla seems to represent everything that one might imagine Spain to be – hot and sticky summers, yellow and white buildings with flower-filled window boxes, soulful flamenco wherever you turn, and a passion for bullfighting. It’s a city to get lost in (whether you like it or not, really) given its jumble of twisting and turning narrow streets, in which you’ll find yourself dodging cars like a torero dodges bulls. I’d already fallen in love with the city for these reasons, however – this time my fascination was a bit more Mary-related.
As our two days in Sevilla came to a close, it became abundantly clear to me that my search was not over. So the morning before we headed home, I rose early with my no-longer-lonely camera in hand, and set out to go Mary hunting on my own. The air was crisp and the city still seemed to be yawning and stretching as I got lost in its quiet streets with my eyes glued to the building walls. Coming upon my new favorite gal, a big grin would spread across my face (a possible fist pump may have been involved a few times too) and I would start clicking away, drawing strange looks from the few people that passed by. I couldn’t help it, though, there was just something about Mary.
*To see all the pictures of Mary that your heart could ever desire, and more, visit the La Tortuga Viajera Facebook page.