Letters From Abroad

I’ve got midterm exams next week, and trips galore over the next few weeks (to Italy, Paris, Portugal, Morocco and other cities in Spain). However, I am not the only one that is busy. Over this past year, the Sevillanos have been preparing for what is known as Semana Santa (“Holy Week”), a weeklong religious event which will run from Sunday, March 28 (Palm Sunday), to Sunday, April 4 (Easter Sunday).

Semana Santa started in the 16th century when the church wanted to present the story of the Passion of the Christ. They thought the best way to do this was through numerous processions through the streets, portraying scenes from the rise and fall of Christ.

Every day there are processions of each brotherhood, made up of floats which are carried on the shoulders, from the church to the cathedral and back again to their home church. They usually carry two floats, one of Jesus Christ and the other of the Virgin Mary. These floats are heavy and extravagant, especially down in the region of Seville, where I am living. Lately, we have been getting a lot of rain; since Semana Santa is an outdoor event, we hope that the rain stops so the floats won’t be ruined.

As I walk around the small but comfortable town of Seville, I see people carrying the platforms to endure the weight of them. Most have been practicing all year long for this week. As Semana Santa approaches, many stores are starting to display what they have available for the celebration. In their window displays there are figures that, to Americans, look like members of the Ku Klux Klan, but they are not. They are called “penitents,” members of the church who show their appreciation to a particular saint. When I first saw these, I was shocked and did not know how to react to them. When my señora explained them to me, she said that every student she has hosted has had the same reaction. During Semana Santa, the penitents file out of the churches two by two and form a huge line all the way down to the end of the procession.

Although Semana Santa has yet to happen, it will definitely be an experience to see because Seville is known to have the largest Semana Santa celebration in Spain. With over 52 brotherhoods located throughout Seville parading down the streets from first light to early the next morning, it will be an interesting sight to see and one to jot down in my journal. Before I can experience such a wonderful and amazing sight, however, I need to get through my midterm exams, so wish me luck as I take on these midterms and travel a little more.

Ciao!
–Carlos Melgar ’11

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