Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Seville´s gearing up for the Feria

Seville is definitely the best place to be in April! The tunics of the nazarenos haven’t even dried in the laundry shops properly and girls are already getting out their flamenco dresses for the Feria. Well, it’s not strictly true, they have been talking about the event all year round but now it’s everywhere around us! But what is the Feria exactly?

The Feria de April (or just THE Feria), the April Fair is the biggest fiesta in Seville, in (I bet you wouldn’t be able to guess) April. It starts two weeks after the Semana Santa. Well, it’s supposed to start at midnight on Sunday but it seems that people are just so excited about it that they can’t really wait that long, so there are many activities organised on the day before.

The origins of this spectacular fiesta are quite amusing actually. According to Wikipedia, the idea was to hold a livestock fair in the middle of the 19th century. They only needed to organise it twice before it was declared a fiesta by the appearance of the first casetas, the tents where different groups entertain their guests.

The dress code is obvious: the traje de flamenco, or the flamenco dress! The dresses themselves are already a sight to behold, full of colour and frill, a proper ‘LOOK AT ME’ look. And it’s not only the colours that are loud but also the fact that it’s very tight, so you better have a nice shape to go with it!

It seems that every single girl in this city has a picture of themselves on their phone wearing their chosen dress that we always dutifully admire with Paul. The average number of flamencas they own seem to be three, usually in different colours and styles. Here’s a tip if you want to practice your Spanish, you can have hour-long conversations about where to buy the cheapest/most stylish/most colourful etc. ones.

There are many shops that sell these dresses and it’s always nice to take a peek inside.

The dress itself is not all, though, you also have to sport all the accessories that come with it, the shoes which colours coordinate with the flamenca, the fan and the hair pins or big flowers to complete the look. They also sell ‘family outfits’, so that you can match with your little ones in colour and style. They sell these tiny dresses for little girls, too, they are absolutely gorgeous!

It’s not only the dress shops that have the Feria look written all over them. In the pharmacies you can see posters saying ‘don’t let a headache stand in your way on the Feria’, the phone companies go for the ‘make sure you can reach your friends on the Feria’ slogans and the shoe shops for the ‘be comfortable on the Feria’ lines. I find this all very amusing.

We have arranged with my students to go together so I will be able to give you a full account of the happenings from next week. I’m also going to attend a class to learn the basic steps of the Sevillana flamenco. Can’t wait!

Watch this space to learn about this all-out fiesta! 

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Semana Santa in Frigiliana

This is the last cofradía I’m going to write about. Frigiliana lies only a few kilometres from Nerja, nestled on the side of a hill (you can read more about it here.) It is a very attractive village full or tourists so try to visit it out of season.

We went over there on Good Friday to see the pasos coming out of the church and had to wait for about 40 minutes! This was the first time when things didn’t start on time. The outfit of the nazarenos were completely different, they had those Egyptian style headdresses which stretched down their backs. No more pointy hats! Their tunic ended in a long tail which they pulled after them while walking which meant that the procession was extremely long!

They also had a different candle. Instead of the long, giant ones they had short ones with a little paper attachment to it to hold up the wax. How clever! They actually looked quite nice, all those bright lights in front of the darkness of the tunics, like flowers.

I was surprised to see that there were no ramps to help the costaleros down the steps. The mistery was solved soon when we saw that the pasos were tiny! They actually had three as the Cruz de Guía had its own little paso.

The paso of Jesus.

Behind the paso walked the 12 apostles wearing robes and masks. Some of these masks were made in the 18th century so they are pretty old. Was a bit freaky to see them walking like that, to be honest.

As it just seemed to go on and on we didn’t wait to see the paso of the Virgin.

It was very interesting to see how similar but still so different the processions can be in Andalusia. It was an incredible experience and I really hope that we will be here to see the Semana Santa next year, too.  

Monday, 28 April 2014

Semana Santa in Nerja

Nerja is a seaside town on the Costa del Sol (you can read more about it here). Paul’s parents rented a villa close by during the Holy Week so as soon as Paul’s brother, Chris joined the pack we all went to see yet another Semana Santa procession, the cofradía de El Salvador.

This was a strange cofradía as the setting was very touristy, the streets were lined with bars and souvenir shops. The procession was all-white in colour for the first paso, and blue/white for the Virgin’s float. The ‘main’ nazarenos’ pointy hats were covered by a lovely white damask material that kind of reminded us of table cloths.

There were many new things here. The biggest difference was in the costaleros as instead of carrying the paso on their necks, here the men were carrying it on their shoulders. They were all wearing a white shirt with black trousers and were holding each others’ shoulders. The last two costaleros were blindfolded.

They also had two llamadores, a man and a child (the role of the llamador runs in the family maybe?), both of them carrying the small wooden hammer. They rang the bell with them to signal to the men.

The paso of Jesus.

For the paso of the Virgin the nazarenos were clad in white and blue.

There was a group of women dressed all in black, wearing the traditional headdress. We thought they might be representing the widows. If anybody could confirm/contradict this in the comments section I’d be grateful.

Interestingly, the paso of the Virgin was carried by women!

After the procession moved on only the wax and the flower petals remained on the floor.

We had never seen a paso arriving back to its home church so we decided to have a look. It was truly spectacular! The two pasos were turned so they faced towards each other. There was a conversation between the men and the women carrying them, moving the pasos back and forth.

At one moment they lifted up the pasos! It was an incredible sight and everybody in the audience applauded them.

Then finally they took them back into the El Salvador church.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Semana Santa in Ronda

On Monday we went to see the City of Dreams, Ronda (you can read more about it here) where in the evening we watched the cofradía of Santa Cecilia. After watching many Holy Week processions in Seville this one seemed utterly different. We got used to the dark, sombre colours of the nazarenos where everything was combined with black or white. Here the colours where bright purple and green! The other main difference was that the children didn’t have pointy hats, they were wearing something that reminded us of the pharaohs in Egypt.

Up until now we just looked at the itinerary of the processions and found a big square where we could watch them moving along in front of us. This was the first time we actually saw a paso leaving the church. The sun shone on the entrance of the church and when it appeared the brass band played a lovely tune. The paso shows Jesus praying with an angel behind him and there were real olive branches behind him. It was beautiful.

The atmosphere in Ronda was completely different to Seville. Here it had a very local feel, everybody knew everybody else, people walked up to the nazarenos for a chat during the break of the costaleros and the children were playing around in their bright outfits.

After dinner we went to see them again, by then they had been walking for hours. The candles were all lit up and we were amazed that they let this happen! All those small children swinging around those huge candles… We were looking around for an ambulance (in England there would be one waiting at every corner) but did not see not only a car but any kind of first aid help on site. (It does not mean there wasn’t any, of course.) On the other hand we were pleased to see that the nazarenos were looked after by the audience, people were going around with bottles offering them water (not only the one they actually knew) and children giving out sweets to everybody.

We saw this little boy wearing a proper costalero outfit, he was very cute.

Another very special moment was when the paso stopped right in front of us. We saw one of the costaleros coming out for a rest and another one going in. 

Before they lifted the paso there was a short conversation with the llamador. We didn’t understand most of it but it seemed that he encourages them and they replied in chorus. For some reason I found this very touching. Paul managed to film it for me.

This cofradía was very similar but still very different to the ones we had seen before. It left us elated and curious to see whether it will be a different experience in other places in Andalusia.