Semana Santa in Córdoba

Sunday the 14th marked the beginning of Holy Week, which, as anyone could guess, is a big deal in big ol’ Catholic Spain. Holy Week is the week leading up to Easter (the day that Jesus supposedly rose from the dead). Sunday the 14th was Palm Sunday, the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey and received much praise from the local Jews. It is the ominous, overly-happy foreshadowing of Good Friday, the day of Jesus’ crucifixion and death.

Holy Week in Córdoba kicks off with La Borriquita procession. Our apartment sits on Calle Lineros, which happens to be a part of the Holy Week processional route. We were able to watch the entire La Borriquita pass our apartment from east to west, then again on the return from west to east. And my god, was that a thing to witness. We were first alerted to the parade by the clustering of people outside our ground-floor apartment windows. I took a step outside to find that I could not walk a block in either direction, even if I wanted to. The sidewalks and streets were entirely choked with people, all waiting to watch, then presumably follow, this holy spectacle. After about twenty minutes of steady accumulation, the procession began to pass.

Let me preface this with some background information. La Borriquita is a reference to one of the Catholic brotherhoods in Spain. The Catholic brotherhoods in Spain wear capirotes, which are conical hats that descend into drapery, covering the entire face save for two small eye holes. The capirotes are creepy as hell, which is ironic, given that they are worn in an attempt to communicate something holy. The Borriquita procession began with a trickling of capirotes dressed in white. They look just like Klu Klux Klan costumes, which caused a chicken-or-egg debate in my head. Were the capirotes the inspiration for the Klan costumes? Or the opposite? Well no, it couldn’t be the opposite because Spain is so much older than America…but because the association is so obvious, wouldn’t the capirotes want to change their garb and sever this association? Or maybe it’s only obvious to an American. Anyway, I would welcome any excuse to eliminate the need to wear an elaborate headdress for hours in Andalusia’s hot, springtime climate. Perhaps I’m just a heretic.

(The hand-on-bottom is an all too appropriate aside for this Catholic ceremony.)

Then, there were men wearing shepherd headdresses with odd bindings around their guts. Aside from these two abnormalities, they were wearing normal clothing (mainly white, ribbed tank tops). Some of the shepherds were rather obese, and so the bindings around their abdomens resulted in an overflowing of fat from their torsos, giving the appearance of breasts. It was all rather confusing, and the majority of them walked out of turn. Some simply stopped walking altogether, taking to the sidewalk to converse with friends in the crowd. I couldn’t tell what they were supposed to be. Was this another more laid back, Catholic brotherhood? The brotherhood of the semi-contemporary, semi-ancient shepherds?

Then there were children dressed in white and red robes. Some had shepherd-style headdresses as well. Some parents dressed their babies in shepherd costumes and carried them through the parade. Eventually, the main event arrived: a massive float depicting Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem. This was followed by a marching band: terrifying thunderclaps of drums supported by ominous gloom-and-doom brass. The Spanish laypeople stood from the sidewalks, some filming with their phones.

Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem was followed by more capirotes, this time in safer colors such as blue and black.

There was a short lull in the processions. The capirotes loitered in the street. Some children ran in from the sidelines, collecting wax from dripping candles with sticks. This looked like another understood tradition: do-it-yourself parade souvenirs. After five minutes passed, the onward movement resumed, and a second float appeared. This time it was Mary, supported again by a marching band. Mary was wooden, face frozen in an expression of anguish and crystal tears. She wore a long, blue robe which trailed off her float, carried by devoted Catholics in a rumpled train.

And then, as quickly as they gathered, the crowds dispersed. People take Holy Week seriously in Spain. But apparently not seriously enough to refrain from placing a hand on the rear of a significant other.