Ins and outs about Semana Santa
By Iris Meester 9th of April 2019
At this very moment while writing this blog I can hear the trumpets and other musical instruments outside my window. I take a look outside and see many people and musicians walking in a straight line in my street. They are preparing for the most important week of the year, Semana Santa. Semana Santa is, in my opinion, the most interesting celebration in Málaga. It is called Semana Santa because it means holy week. Me, as a down to earth dutchie, find it quite hard to imagine how intense and important this week is for the Malagueños. I think to understand this you have to know more about the history behind this week and experience it for yourself. So, I did some research and was surprised by the stories behind it. There are a few important historical facts that you should know about this week. Well, I would love to tell you guys more about it!
It’s important to know about the processions. The processions are a way for people to express their religeous beliefs and to remember the stories of Jesus Christ. More than 40 processions are organized during Semana Santa week in Málaga. The processions take place at different times during the day and even during the night (for me, someone who lives in the centre, this will mean a few sleepless nights) but I bet it’s going to be totally worth it.
In Malaga, there are different “brotherhoods”. Every brotherhood has its own “ Trono” (like a throne). They are extremely heavy and are carried by strong Spanish men during the Semana Santa celebration, yes I know ladies, already a good reason to watch the parade. The Trono dipicts the many stories about the death of Jesus Christ, for example; the last supper and Jesus when he is betrayed by Judas. For the men, it is an honour to carry the Trono.
The procession starts with the “ penitents” also called the Nazarenes. Which the penitents from the story present. They wear costumes with “
Releasing of a prisoner
Releasing a prisoner? Yes, you read that right. I was shocked when I first heard this and wanted to take the first plane back to Holland. But instead of booking a flight back to Holland I looked for more information about this unusual story on the internet. When you ask the Malagueños about it they don’t react that surprised. For them, it’s something normal and they don’t see the big deal of it. Every year they free one of the prisoners in Málaga. The reason for this is because many years ago when the plague broke out in Spain a lot of citizens died. Due to the lack of citizens, the prisoners offered to carry a certain Trono during the Processions and then returned to prison afterwards. To remember this and to thank them, a tradition has been installed to release one prisoner a year during the Semana Santa celebration.
Program of this week
Domingo the Ramos: The start of Semana Santa is on Sunday 14th April. One of the processions that take place that day is from the brotherhood Fusionadas. The famous actor Antonio Banderas from Malaga is also part of this brotherhood (hence, many people come to watch).
Lunes Santo: This day includes dancing and singing combined with a band that chances every year.
Martes Santo: Another day with more processions. One of the brotherhoods even stretch the arms during the carry of the throne.
Miércoles Santo: This day the prisoner is freed. You can see this ceremony in the evening in front of the Cathedral.
Jueves Santo: On this day you can see singing soldiers walking from the port of Malaga to the centre, joined by a goat.
Viernes Santo: You can go to the city centre to watch the city decorated in lights.
Domingo de resurrección: One last procession, but will all the brotherhoods together.
More information and routes you can find on the internet.
Facts about Semana Santa
Tips for the Semana Santa.
Tip 1: Most of the shops are closed and only open in the morning. So keep this in mind in case you have to buy some groceries.
Tip 2: Make a schedule for yourself with all of the processions and things you want to see. It will be difficult to see everything.
Tip 3: If you are planning to come by car, you will not be able to park in the centre so think again! A good alternative is parking by the shopping mall Plaza Mayor, a few minutes outside of the centre.
Tip 4: Download an app, For example, Cofradias MLG; to find out where each part of any procession is at any given time, and also for last-minute changes to the schedule, such as cancellations or delays.
Book about Semana Santa
A Dutch writer Mariët Meester (no it’s not a coincidence that we have the same last name, it’s my aunt), has written a book mainly about this week in Málaga. It has been translated from Dutch into Spanish. She lived in Sevilla and got inspired by the stories she heard from the locals about this week. To find out more about this week she settled down in Málaga and experienced the week for herself. She is an expert when it comes to Semana Santa and Spain and knows a lot about the history behind it. So to give you guys more information about this week I did an interview with her.
What inspired you to write the book “La Tribuna de Los Pobres”.
”Well, the first inspiration came a long time ago! My boyfriend and I travelled to Sevilla and bought a donkey. We called her Sevillana and walked with her to Granada. Along the way – the journey lasted several months – I bought a Spanish newspaper and read about the annual tradition in Málaga to release a prisoner from the provincial prison during the Semana Santa. I already knew the Semana Santa, because I had seen it two times: in Sevilla and Utrera. I was curious to know more about this puzzling and intriguing tradition in Málaga.”
What was your first impression of this week?
”The first time I experienced the Semana Santa in Sevilla, I was flabbergasted! In the book ‘La Tribuna de Los Pobres’ I write that I was oscillating between fascination and aversion. Everything was extreme, everything seemed over the top, while at the same time this week was serious and serene. The crowds, the masks, the smells, the sculptures, the music, the dedication of the people, the continuation until deep in the night and even early in the morning. To me, it seemed an interesting mixture of absurdism and spirituality.”
What do you think is the most interesting about Semana Santa?
”In my book, I describe the Semana Santa as a gigantic collaborative project, a passionate and tridimensional Matthäus Passion performed in the streets. Every citizen has his own fundamental role. Everybody is necessary, even the spectators. Together the inhabitants are visualizing an enormous work of art. They are united for a goal that goes beyond normal life. For me, as a non-religious person, the Semana Santa is a display of human suffering, sad and beautiful at the same time. It can help you to understand your own suffering. It can drag you through.”
What would you definitely recommend doing during the Semana Santa?
”Well, it’s impossible to see everything. There are free guides that can help you map out a route as if you are on a movie festival. There are also special apps that can turn out handy. It will be tiring anyway; you’ll have to stay awake part of the night. I would recommend seeing El Cautivo on the Aurora
Are there any tips about the Semana Santa that you would like to share with the students?
”Of course, you can’t miss the soldiers who are guarding the Christo de Mena. Just wait in line until it’s your turn to enter. You also have to sit down once on the Tribuna de Los Pobres. It’s difficult to find a place, but deep in the night, it’s possible. You can also bring a folding chair. You could also go to the house of the Brotherhood of Esperanza. It’s a kind of museum. You will never see
I hope I have got you guys as excited as I am for Semana Santa. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask me whenever you want to know more.
Have fun next week !