May 26, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Culture, Spain, Traditions, Travel, Travels in Spain

I’m sure you’ve all been waiting on pins and needles for the Easter processions video that I promised ;). Finally, it’s here (phew!), however you might not rest any easier after seeing it. How does this peculiar tradition make you feel: Awkward? Spiritual? Humbled? Uncomfortable?

If you are having trouble viewing this video, please click here.
To see my blog post about the processions, click here.

May 13, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Culture, Spain, Traditions, Travel, Travels in Spain

I didn’t expect to feel so sick to my stomach. I’d seen many awkward images of Spanish men wearing the white, cone-shaped hoods before. It wasn’t anything new. And yet, there I stood, with my tummy knotted in discomfort as though I were witnessing something horribly awful.

It was Maundy Thursday and dutiful Catholics lined the small pueblo streets of Zamora. And then there was me, camera in hand, jaw dropped and wide-eyed. I was witnessing one of many Easter processions, which consist of religious, parade-like journeys through cities across Spain. And by “Easter” and “parade,” I’m not referring to the American-style holiday filled with bunnies, decorative eggs and chocolate (although, I’m trying my darnedest to incorporate them into Spanish culture). Of course it wasn’t the lack of holiday candy that caused my jaw to drop (tragic as that may be), but you already knew that after seeing the above picture.

During this week, many Spanish Catholics gather to express their dedication and reflect on the Passion of Christ. To demonstrate this, men and women make a solemn and ever-so-slow walk through town, which can last for hours (occasionally, they even stop mid-way for a snack – this is Spain, people!). Sometimes the men go barefoot, sometimes they play an instrument, and sometimes they bear the weight of a float-like statue. But almost always, the men wear the same costume – one that uncomfortably resembles an infamous outfit back in the States.

The drums, trumpets and church bell started to sound, as I stood squished between the Zamora townspeople. In unison, the men began their gradual march. With each beat of the drum, they paced forward in silence as one. Behind the brotherhood of men, followed the women, who dressed in mourning by wearing black from toe to head. A decorative comb finished off their look, fanning out above their upswept hair, and suspending a drape of dark lace along their backs. Many women wore ballerina flats, while others wore sky-high heals, and some out of sacrifice wore no shoes at all (although, as I’m sure any lady will attest, wearing massively high heels is almost always a much larger sacrifice than going barefoot).

Within a matter of minutes, I’m pretty sure that my breath and heart-rate slowed to the beat of the drums. My pulse no longer raced with rage, and the butterflies in my stomach seemed to stop fluttering. Almost in a trance, I found myself nearly weepy while viewing the humble and hypnotizing custom.

My emotions toyed with me. My gut hated the sight of what I’ve always known to be a symbolically deplorable outfit, but my heart saw something different. The thoughts rolled around in my head, perplexing me by the extremes.

Slowly, I began to understand why these people looked forward to this tradition with such intensity. Sure there weren’t Easter baskets, or Cadbury cream eggs, but something more captivating and meaningful had taken over the Spanish streets. As most reflected on Christ’s death and rebirth, I reflected on their reflecting, and as silly as it sounds, the humility was truly contagious.

Revisiting my videos (which I plan to post soon!), I still feel those same uncomfortable sensations stirring around in my stomach. But after only a few minutes of watching, my heart slows again. And while my tummy continues to rumble, this time it’s from hunger. I suppose it only seems fitting that I’m now going to edit the video while noshing on my remaining Easter chocolate from the States.

To see more photos, please visit the La Tortuga Viajera Facebook page.