Semana Santa (Holy Week)

Earlier last week, I came out of my apartment to find this frilly little number. I gently picked it up and placed it by the elevator and found it on a door knob later in the day. Some thought it was a Spanish “Welcome to the neighbourhood” message. LOL I’m sure it was errant laundry, although laundry is hung outside your window. You have to be very careful you don’t drop your clothes to the pavement below. They do dry very quickly, in the Spanish sunshine. Timing is also important. I get the morning sun, but my neighbours across the way get their sun in the afternoon. I love the fact I can’t shrink my clothes in a dryer and of course with the price of electricity here, a dryer would be entirely wasteful. Even my poor laundry skills couldn’t shrink my brassiere to the size of this little beauty.

This week has me trying to get into a Spanish routine with eating and so far, it is working. I have a very light breakfast, a bigger lunch, snack around 5:00 pm and then light dinner. I like this way of eating. You end the day with a lighter feel and I have slept better overall…except for the Da Dá Lounge that is next to my apartment and opens at midnight until 7:00 am. Saturdays are extremely annoying. Last night was a thrill with fireworks, yelling and the occasional wretch. Sounds seem louder and clearer in the night air.

One lunch this week included pulpo or grilled octopus. So yummy, and enough to take home to make a stir fry the next day.

I didn’t think the weekly market would be open, but was thrilled to find that it was. I wanted some fruit. As I entered, I was greeted by Moses who proclaimed me his new wife from Canada. He sold Spanish leather purses and gave me some tips for looking for quality leather goods. I bought a mango, some oranges and a couple of avocados. The vendor said “I will choose the best that are ready to eat” I couldn’t wait to get back to the apartment for some avocado toast. She was correct, they were the best!

Moses posing for a photo with his new Canadian wife.
Mollette (similar in texture to an English muffin), naranja (orange) and aguacate (avocado)

Torre del Mar was busily preparing for Semana Santa. They had an exhibition of a throne which I could get close to on Maundy (Holy) Thursday. This was a preview of what we would be seeing on Good Friday, the next day. I also had a front row seat to watch an annual parade of their infantry. The dignitaries were in their dark suits with black shoes polished standing on a red carpet. The locals were on their balconies waving Spanish flags and the Town Square was full of people craning necks to see the parade. I loved the marching and singing. It was special to be able to witness the locals during their celebrations. Loving Torre del Mar and all it has to offer.

Infantry marching into the Town Square (Torre del Mar). Impressive and colourful uniforms
Not sure what anthem was being sung but it was lovely and the crowd cheered and clapped for this annual display of colours.

The Big Event

This is Holy Week, or what is known as Semana Santa. I was privileged to attend the processions on Good Friday, a solemn day for Christians, the day when Jesus was crucified and died for our sins. Vélez-Málaga, has one of the most impressive Semana Santa celebrations outside of the big cities of Madrid, Barcelona and Málaga. It really is something to see. More to come on that…

Before going to the processions, we had the good fortune to meet Valario, an artist, from Bennarosa, Málaga who creates the figurines installed on the thrones in Vélez-Málaga. He is commissioned by fraternities to create figurines for their tronos or thrones. They are kept secret until presented at the next procession. What was special is that we were the first people allowed inside his workshop. This man is extremely talented, self-taught and so humble. Hundreds of hours go into creating these pieces that are initially created in clay, and once the model is approved, he carves them out of cedar. The faces are painted with oil paints and for the robes he uses natural tints for more realism.

I had to take a picture of the bust and wood carving as it reminded me of my cousin Morgan. The picture on the tablet shown were samples of his finished products. Incredibly beautiful! How lucky we were to meet him.

It was then into the van and off to Vélez-Málaga to sample treats served during Semana Santa. Cipriano, our guide, took us to meet his mother who also participated in the making of the treats at Café Mediterráneo y La Mar. Muy delicioso!

Full of energy, we walked 10 minutes to the Church of San Juan Bautista where we witnessed the Madonna procession. She was beautiful. These thrones can weigh up to 5000 kg and are carried on the shoulders of men. It is a privilege to carry a throne up and down the hills of the town. The people carrying them are called horquilleros. There are 19 brotherhoods that prepare for an entire year. Of course, this year was extra special as it hadn’t been held in two years due to Covid.

I have to say it was such a dream moving around the town, waiting and watching for the processions on a warm night under a full moon. The fragrance of the orange trees permeated the air. Magic!

Processions begin on Palm Sunday and carry on each day until Easter Sunday. Good Friday is more sombre as it leads up to the crucifixition of Jesus.

Penitents can be seen wearing cone shaped hats with their faces covered and are not in any way related to the Ku Klux Klan. “The penitents hoods date back to the Spanish Inquisition times. In the 15th century, it was decreed that those convicted of religious crimes had to wear the conical hoods so that everyone knew they had sinned. This symbol of imposed penitence from the Inquisition was later translated into processions. While we don’t know for sure, their first use in processions could date from 17th-century Seville. The color of the robes depends on the brotherhood, which is why there are purple, red and white and black ones.” Cited from El Paiz magazine.

Even the militia participates displaying their moves

The tour ended at the Church of San Juan Bautista where the Crucifixion throne was carried up a hill, made a three-point turn and was carried up the steps into the church to the claps from the crowd but while they were maneuvering, the crowd was silent. Security pushes the crowds back to make room for the throne to make its turn. I was pleased to have a higher vantage point. We got to see 4 or 5 different processions. There were 7 in total that day but it is difficult moving through the crowds to see them all. Timing is key. As we were heading to our meeting point, I found myself in the middle of a procession. When I looked up, I saw the most beautiful Madonna smiling down on me. Tears welled up in my eyes.

It was a long evening. I was picked up at 4:45 pm and dropped off after midnight. Anne-Grete and I were so wound up, we headed for a nightcap before hitting my pillow at 2:00 am. This tour requires lots of walking and standing. I found it gruelling at times and then I thought of the men carrying the thrones up and down the hills and dismissed my own aches. Point of note: This event is not meant for those with accessibility concerns. Cobblestones and hills.

I do wish to thank Cipriano and Maria from Oletrips for organizing such a spectacular tour. They have been in business for four years and a capture the hearts of many of the visitors.

The week is coming to a close but still lots going on. I walked the Paseo Maritimo and enjoyed the sunshine and warm weather. Sunbathers were out in hordes. I can only imagine July and August here with the crowds. Stopping in for some ice cream and a café con leche as a reward for my walk. I had to have a rest before heading out for dinner at Punto & Pasta Trattoria with Anne-Grete and her husband Geir. The seafood pasta was incredible and so was the service. Thank you Maximillion! We headed to a bar for a whiskey nightcap before saying good night.

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