Monday, March 29, 2010

Semana Santa

I’m on an airplane as I type this en route to Charleston, SC, where my best friend Anne lives. We’re going to spend Easter Week together with our dear friend, May, who is flying in from Spain for a girls’ week! I’m so excited to see them--to have a whole week together feels like friendship decadence! The three of us met back in 2002/3 when we were all working together in Spain. We became fast friends, and I’m so thankful that we have maintained our friendships over the past seven years!

In thinking about this trip, it occurred to me that Anne and I have have spent one other Easter week together. It was Holy Week (or Semana Santa, as they say in Spain) of 2003. I was living in Zaragoza, and a group of my American friends/co-workers and I decided to take a trip down to Seville where Semana Santa is celebrated in grand style.

There are processions through the streets with giant floats depicting scenes from the original Holy Week:

Photo found here.

Operatic songs are sung in the open air:

Photo found here.

Women are dressed in their traditional headdresses:

Photo found here.

And then there is the most striking sight of all: the throngs of people walking through the streets in these hooded garments that look to my American eyes precisely like those worn by the Ku Klux Klan.

Photo found here.

It is a most disconcerting thing to see. I never could get used to it. After associating such an image with the most heinous and unsavory of aspect of American culture, it was hard to see it as having any other meaning, regardless of what country I was in.

As I came to learn, Spaniards have worn such garments during Holy Week for centuries. The hooded cloaks are symbols of repentance. I tried to get comfortable with that and to dissociate what I saw around me in the streets of Seville from the symbol of hate that hooded cloaks symbolize here in America.

But it was impossible.

I have always tended to diffuse uncomfortable moments with humor, and Anne still gets the giggles when we reminisce about one particular day of our trip to Seville when I leaned over to her and said, “Hey, Annie, purple Kluxer at six o’clock”.

I am now arrived safely in Charleston, and perched on Anne's kitchen countertop to greet me was this little trinket she bought in Seville those many years ago.

Nothing like a little purple-clad penitent to bring back memories!


J at said...

Oh, that made me laugh! And boy, great way to diffuse the hatred of a symbol, right? Purple head indeed.

I'm with you, an American, that procession would freak me the hell out. Like seeing swastikas used by the Hindus, rather than the horrible meaning it came to carry under Hitler.

lauren.lechner said...

It is rather hard to understand, especially since the KKK holds a strong anti-Catholic sentiment. That is actually why the KKK took this garb as their own, one for privacy, but two as an offense to another group they hated besides the African Americans.