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.

11 Responses to “Procession perplexities”

  1. Erik R. Says:

    Spanish Easter processions really are terrifying. And it’s even worse with an American brain firing all its KKK recognition neurons.

    There are some great photos here showing just how much Catholics around the world are willing to torment themselves on the pagan holiday of rebirth and fecundity.

  2. Erin Says:

    WOW. All I can say is wow. Those pictures leave me speechless. Fortunately, the Zamora processions (and Spanish processions in general, from what I know anyway) are significantly less extreme. Wow…

  3. Sabrina Says:

    I can see how that can mess with you. I get similar feelings when people here in Texas sometimes very lightheartedly tell me the German words they know from watching war movies. Makes me cringe every single time! Cool pictures of the precession though! Looking forward to the video! I really like when you post them… I thought about doing something similar, but just putting the pics together has kept me busy enough so far.

  4. Erin Says:

    I think we must have simultaneously been posting comments on each other’s blogs ;). Hmmm, German words from war movies – can’t say that I know any of those. I can count to ten though and say “bless you” when someone sneezes – perhaps still cringeworthy? Actually, for a couple of years as a child I desperately wanted to learn German. My grandma bought me all sorts of picture books in the language…it was hilarious. Too bad I don’t remember any of it now.

    Hopefully I will post the video next week or the week after. This one may not be so exciting – well, the processions in general aren’t “exciting.” Let’s see how it turns out…

  5. Laura Says:

    I can see why you would be uncomfortable, although, I remember bunnies and eggs being very confusing as a child. Thanks for sharing this!

  6. Erin Says:

    Haha! I think Santa was always slightly more troubling for me. Big cuddly bunny? Weird, sure. But creepy old man who wants me to sit on his lap? That was just plain frightening!

  7. Erin in Costa Rica Says:

    That definitely would have made my stomach turn. Shoot, even after reading your explanation, I still can’t look at the photo without feeling sick. It’s just scary!

  8. Erin Says:

    The pictures are still tripping me out too, to be quite honest. Wait until you see the video. Do they do anything like this in Costa Rica? I know the tradition carried over to some places in Latin America…

  9. Erin in Costa Rica Says:

    Not that I’ve seen! If I walked out on the street and saw a bunch of hoods I would have a FIT! They do have parades with reenactments of the crucifixion, though.

  10. Sabrina Says:

    I’m sure your counting is not cringeworthy at all 🙂

  11. S. Quinn Says:

    Wow, talk about “diversity!” People only like “multiculturalism” and “diversity” when it suits them! First of all, it is unfair to compare the costumes with the KKK as there is no relationship whatsoever, either historically nor in purpose. As for the few places that do some weird things (the link Eric provided), though they may not be my cup of tea, they are infinitely, INFINITELY, INFINITELY less bizarre than many of the rituals of Native Americans (the “Blood Eagles” to take one example that nauseates many people).

    It wouldn’t hurt to make some LITTLE attempt to step outside one’s own ethno-tempo-religio-centrism and at least TRY and understand why people do the things they do , rather than immediately assuming the ugliest, worst case scenario!

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