Throwback: Christ and Cañas: Semana Santa in Calasparra

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I originally meant to publish all of these three posts together, but somehow only managed to publish the details of my first day in Calasparra for Semana Santa (Easter). With my new found free time, I thought I would start to rectify the situation, starting with this post about the processions that were held in the small town of Calasparra thoughout Semana Santa.

Each pueblo celebrates three main processions throughout the weekend. The first one is on Friday morning, where the titular saints of the community are carried by the parishioners throughout the city. Each of the seven images of Calasparra (each city has their own particular number of saints) is accompanied by different colored participants who carry banners or throw hard candies to the spectators. The second occurs Friday evening in honor of the death of Christ and the final procession occurs Sunday Morning in rejoice of his resurrection.

Rocio’s older sister, Dori’s apartment looks out over the main route and so we were able to sit calmly on her terrace watching all the saints pass us by in this first procession. I was particularly interested in the movement of the images, which sway from side to side making very little forward progress. After a few feet, the conductor rings a bell and they rest in place until it is rung again. Everyone I spoke with could remember participating in these celebrations, most as young children who dreamed of being able to carry the saint. Moreover, it is a complex process that I assumed required some sort of training; however, all told me that the only groups that practice are the musicians prior to the event, and even then, if you have done so once, you know the drill.

If you pay close attention to the children, you can see the human side of such processions, that no matter how strictly enforced the protocol is, there is always something or something that interferes with the perfect “order”. By their squirminess, the children broke the defined lines interacting with one another throughout all of the breaks, which further exemplified to me, how our historical documents, such as protocol accounts or event descriptions of said processions fail to acknowledge this human element that continually shaped the experience.

All of the following photos reflect this first procession:

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Above and below is Rocio’s brother-in-law, who on Sunday was bestowed the honor to remove the golden heart from the titular saint of the community. Here you see him as the conductor of her float ringing the bell to move the saint throughout the streets.

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As soon as the last saint passed us, we headed down into the streets, where most of the city has already been seated at the terrace tables drinking cañas (small glasses of beer) while watching the saints pass by. It’s an incredibly social atmosphere with everyone moving from one bar to another constantly reuniting with different friends and family. We spent the entire afternoon with the different members of her family, as is depicted in the photos below, before heading out with her close friends.

 

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As dusk fell, we headed back to her house to grab sweaters and to leave the camera, which means that I do not have images of the second procession, which occurs that same night. This procession marks the death of Christ; and therefore, is much more solemn than that of the morning. The most beautiful part of this celebration was how no matter where people were in the city when a holy image passed, in respect, everyone fell silent. The first time this occurred, we were in a packed bar, where you barely could hear one another shouting, and then without warning everyone stopped talking. Rocio led me outside to see the particular virgin process by, like before, she slowly swayed back and forte on the cobblestone streets. Behind her, were  numerous community members carrying candles either in honor of their faith or the loss of a loved one, adding a personal touch to this procession.

 

There would not be another procession until Christ rose from the dead, that Sunday.  My next post will discuss my touristic adventures that Saturday in Calasparra.

 

However, these last photos reflect the final procession of the weekend. Since Easter Sunday is not a solemn occasion, but rather the joyous commemoration of Christ’s resurrection, the musicians play contemporary songs and the bearers of the saints dance with their images marking visually the change in celebration.

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Above and below are photos of Argeo, Rocio’s cousin and a good friend who plays the clarinet every year in the celebration.

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In these next few photos I tried to capture the meeting of two titular saints who first bow to one another, and then pass by one another in the main square of the town. After this meeting the elected person, this year Rocio’s uncle, removes the golden heart from the Virgin. It is a great honor to touch the image’s body and I was happy that someone from this loving family was able to do so the weekend that I was there.

 

 

 

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After this moment all of the saints begin the procession back to their parish churches. There is more dancing, throwing of candies and singing as they all joyously head home.

Here are a couple photos of all of us in the Main Square.

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Finally at the end of the parade there the “snail” which is when the roman soldiers and purple men loop around in a circle that becomes ever smaller until there is no longer any space left. Interestingly, when they were at their tightest, the two colors easily separated no matter where the figures were in the loop. We watched this last celebration with many of Rocio’s friends at a local bar, as is custom for many calasparrans, before heading out to eat with all of them.

 

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As a historian who is incredibly intrigued by the power of processions and ephemeral decorations, it was a great privilegie to see the contemporary version of the events with Rocio and her town, which has definetly influenced my personal vision of such historical events.

I hope that I have not given the impression that everyone uses these parades to drink excessively, because that was not the impression that I received. Instead, these sacral moments provided the entire community with a break from everyday life, which they celebrated together in the streets, reuniting in different bars having a small beer here and there, which over the course of the day does not amount to too much. The Bible states: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them” (Matthew 18:20). This weekend was filled with the celebration of love concretized through the gatherings of friends and family, which ultimately is the message of this weekend’s celebration.

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