Malaga once a downcast, desolate, washed up, looked on the way out, with EU support now vibrant, lively, well banked, cash pointed and chain store shopped, still puts on one hell of a Semana Santa, Holy week that HAS to be seen/experienced I mean to be believed.
Waiting for a parade, haven’t we all… Kids, adults, protests, Lord Mayor’s show, we’ve all been there. It was Wednesday, Not Ash Wednesday in case of anyone’s confused, but Mericoles Santo, (Holy Wednesday) the day before Maundy Thursday. But with its days of parades, different themes to every day of Holy Week and different hoods and capes, this is an affront to a sceptic on the grandest of grand scales.
Stood on Marques de Larios, watching as the great (in their own minds), and Good, (or not so good probably as well) filled the seats, wine sipped, got in with the cakes and tarts. Waiting to be eaten, Beers… slurped. The Spanish love a party, adore a fiesta, and watch any parade that passes.
And the blue hooded caped crusader? The roots are deep in the medieval past, when cities were passing from Muslim, to Christian. Malaga one of the last cities retaken in 1487, 700 years a Muslim city, the reassertion of Roman Catholic Church values would be underpinned by these displays of devotion, adherence and piety. A reminder to those heretical faiths, who would be finally expelled thirty years later, who was in charge now. The thing about Semana Santa, it dominates the City and it’s beating, shopping heart, but life goes on; shoppers shop, beer’s drunk, and cash spent.
Mericoles Santo, (Holy Wednesday), in Malaga, is especially fervent in Malaga, the story goes:
…in 1759 a plague ravaged Malaga, saw these processions suspended, attempting to slow the plague’s spread. Prisoners broke out of prison, paraded pictures of Christ in the worst plague hit areas, and then returned to prison, the plague reportedly, miraculously disappeared, and ever since then, One prisoner is released every year on this day in the Malaga parade.
True or not, the tale has a special significance here, a resonance. The last two years saw the whole Semana stopped by COVID, and even this year, it’s not just the hooded penitents wearing masks on the Semana parades. So this Semana Santa, and this day was especially poignant for the Malagalaise, with COVID on the wane, after a long period of sacrifice, there was a palpable sense of relief. Like the old days all over ag’in.
Keeping the flames alive is more than a saying, as the picture demonstrates, incidentally the hoods - white, red, blue, green, nothing to do with the KKK despite appearances, these have been on the go for centuries, and are more about penance and service than any racist association we might have.
The photo juxtaposes traditional and modern values. I was camera ready all over Malaga stalking for a hooded penitent, at a cash point, it was not to be. But it’s that historical/modern mashup in Malaga that I love so much. Some nations seem to have lost touch with their and traditions roots. When did our traditional UK pre-Christmas goosefare’s transition into the German market? Our Lord Mayor parade’s if you come from the kind of Midland City I grew up in, can barely raise a float or two, let alone a whole afternoon of parades. I stood on the streets of Malaga watching and wondering about the significance of ritual in our lives. Does it matter? I can’t help feeling that here in Malaga, and across Andalucia, it’s a vital element in life.
The parades are noisy, long and captivating. There’s a real sense of pride and devotion, not witnessed in the rest of the year. During Holy Week, churches were rammed, most other times - - empty, except for the usual collection of elderly adherents, usually solitary, sat praying and reflecting, perhaps alongside a priest as old as me, I’ve seen very few young priests in Spain. There’s a sense of calm in those places, high alters, carved with unimaginable skill. You can see where Spain’s South American Gold and Silver were spent, on craftsmen from all over Europe. But these Churches, vast and airy and largely empty, are a welcome relief on a searing hot day for the foot weary, museumed out, for the hot and flagging bones, these churches are cool quiet and calm islands in Andalucia’s frantic rush to modernise.
Sacrilege? Perhaps, probably, but these parades really are something else, I’ve seen nothing like them, and the coordination has to be seen to be believed. In short this is ONE OF THE great 20 things that must be experienced before you die, it is that good, and you will see so much that’s out of your usual life unless you are Andalucían.