Semana Santa and the Toro del Aleluya

So I´ve got a couple more posts about Morocco before its fully out of my system, but it might be nice to return to what´s happening in Spain as well. This past week was Semana Santa (¨Holy Week”), when processions of eerily hooded penitentes somberly march through the streets holding elegant candles and large floral platforms displaying decisive moments of the Virgen and Christ leading up to his death. While the census might claim Spain to be something like 95% Catholic, the majority is not religious in practice. During Semana Santa, however, Catholics, seem to come out of the woodwork (perhaps to repent for the other 51 weeks of not practicing). The atmosphere for this festival is strange. Most of Arcos is in a celebratory mood, enjoying time off from work and using the gravity of the event as an excuse to let loose. I should point out that drinking a whiskey and coke while observing a procession is not a likely sight outside of Cádiz; many areas north of here, including the Spanish capital of Holy Week, Sevilla, take Semana Santa perhaps more literally than in this province of pranksters. In Arcos, the processions are the undisputed centerpiece of the week, but despite being insistantly sober and dark it is the tangential party that is the town´s rallying cry for solidarity.


Penitentes on the Old Town´s Cuesta del Belén (Bethlehem Hill)

A Semana Santa band

I mentioned that the processions lead up to the death of Jesus. If this is Easter week, you might ask, why wouldn´t there be a prosession commereating the Resurrection? Is this not why we celebrate Easter? Also, are there Easter egg hunts and the Easter bunny? Let´s just say that in a way, yes, in Arcos there is sort of a combination of all of these things, just slightly different. The Easter bunny is actually two massive bulls, the the brave and senseless people are the eggs in the barbaric hunt, and the procession is a heart-stopping stampede with the national beast through the overlflowing streets of Arcos. Yes, this is Easter in Spain. We paint our eggs with blood.

Waiting for the first bull

Waiting for the first bull

Waiting for the first bull

The first bull run

Ameteur bullfighter. The rope around the horns is the first step in attempting to corral the bull back into the cage it was released from.

The first bull was big

The Toro del Aleluya is a tradition over 200 years old in Arcos, and its always one of the year´s biggest parties

Waiting for the second bull

Waiting to run with the the second bull. Whereas the first bull is released at a distance from the main street, and faces an uphill run when he arrives, it is not an overly spectacular or flashy running (though still extremely dangerous). The second bull, on the other hand, is released at the top of a hill, and proceeds to blast down the narrow passage in full stride. It´s quite a site, especially when it´s running right behind you…

The second bull. Darker and faster. This photo was taken by my friend Phoebe, because, well, I was running for my life just out of the frame.


~ by lincolnbrody on March 26, 2008.

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