There’s Nothing Worse Than a Wonky Hood
Holy Wednesday brought the most dramatic and colourful of the penitents' cloaks and hoods, velvet I thought, but sense tells me no way, not even for this devotion would an entire army spend hundreds of euro’s on a uniform worn two or three days in the year. Ersatz velvet?
Then there's the inevitable culture clash of tradition and modernity. What's that in the penitent's hand? A bank card? A library card? A phone?
At first I thought COVID was rampant in the penitents hands to mouths, but then realised, pulling down on the cloth, near the mouth and nose would straighten the cone and hoods point, a simple tug pull the hood upright and proud and erect. There’s nothing worse than wonkey hood, it just looks wrong, wrong, wrong. But again in these hoods there’s real eyes, real people, real hearts and souls. These penitents all have their own interests, hidden lives, and they actually do charitable works, working with, young, old, children, infirm, homeless, needy. The hoods confer anonymity, an eschewing of status.
The number of people involved is simply staggering, even for a city of 500,000 people like Malaga, think Leeds in the UK, or half the population of San Jose(CA), or Austin (TX) in USA, put on a show like this for a week, whole week
Semana Santa Handshake
Stood on Malaga’s main east west street, Good Friday parade waiting, it’s gonna be a Good Friday. Envying the “top” seats, top location, and top comfort. Me? I’m not even in the cheap seats, I’m sheltering under trees, a tourist, a camera, mobile phone dodging, wondering how the hell you get the seats? (Book in advance, and pay lots, even for the wooden deckchair cheap seats, there’s a web page. Of course there is a web page. Maybe a next trip treat for old legs, hips, knees and all. Sitting and watching feels better as I age.
I saw this young girl, occasionally dash out from the crowd and extend her hand to SOME, and only SOME, cloaked and hooded penitents, whilst at other times a penitent would extend their hand only for it hang in mid-air, her’s was firmly behind her, behind her back. I found myself wondering how she selected the “lucky” penitent from the huge blocks of identical hoods passing by, followed by a brass band, followed by the altar, the statues of the next cloaked brotherhood.
Thrown back to my own childhood and my refusing to play with kids for some, now forgotten sleight that at the time must have been vital to me. Were we, was I, as fickle then as this young girl at the Santa parade? Yes I was. Probably insensitive and hurtful. How little childhood has changed in the 50+ years that have passed, I suppose it’s all part of the growing process. I am wondering though, do I this now? Yeah I reckon I do, I’m petty, petulant, and pretty childish even now. It was good, however, to see that trust and confidence. Looking back I’m not too sure I’d have had any confidence at her age, especially with these no faced hooded claws, they could easily be straight outta Doctor Who. ‘Suppose sword and sorcery tele has made it all fun.
Strange thing is, though this was the last night, and I’d seen parades on previous nights, I’d not seen this. But it must happen loads, and loads over the six days of the Semena. These handshakes are an essential part of the daily life of the parades, a wonderfully touching and tender moment in the milieu, noise and confusion of the day.
One thing I only noticed when editing the photo, the penitent’s hand, it’s almost the same size as the girl’s, yet the penitent is much, much, taller. Was it a hooded woman, I’d assumed the penitents were all men, it seems such a masculine activity, marching, heavy cloaks in a warm Andalucía night. Not that it really matters just changes my own preconceptions of the whole event.
In way for me this one photo sums of the whole of the Semana festival, parades, bands, crowds, and alters, yes there’s glitz, yes there’s show, there is high drama and a sense of theatrics, and there is certainly devotion on those streets, but there’s also a tangible sense of family and a shared traditional values, and community involvement. This one simple gesture captures some of that spirit for me. It sums up the ethos, the humanity, especially as the penitent’s hand is ungloved, human touch, physical and emotional in that one gesture.
The young girl never gives a smile amongst all the greetings though. Perhaps it was the solemnity of the night, Christ’s Crucifixion, or just determination to shake occasional hands. Her mother, not the lady in the photo, seemed to encourage her out towards specific penitents evoking another childhood memory, being encouraged to be nice to a least favourite auntie or uncle. I think I must have worn that little girls’ face in those moments, sad, in the face of a loving person. Later all that transmogrified into embarrassment and a sombre regret at these aspects of my childhood pettiness. No chance to apologise as all those on the receiving end well, they’ve all now ‘passed’.
Watching the parades, the bands, the incense, the rising chatter, the horses, it has it all, raucous, loud, extravagant, exuberant solemnity, yet the moments witnessing a child’s interaction captures part of the Semana’s essence for me, innocence, devotion, trust, and tradition.