Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Semana Santa in Seville: Nazarenos and Penitents

I was in Seville for Holy Week and Easter last week, because that's the place to go; it was an anthropology and photography trip for me. It was completely surreal. Coming from the historical perspective that I do, it felt like a collective, national missing of the point in which people use the trappings of the Inquisition to reenact medieval penitential processions in order to carry out their own penance while ignoring the fact that the nation that they are now is not the nation that both carried out and fell victim to that Holy Office. It was awesomely uncomfortable — and the fact of the matter is that I'll never look at my doctoral robes the same way again, what with the explicit connection that academic dress has with this general movement — but the visuals were stunning.

The penitents will often choose to carry their crosses while going barefoot, an especially impressive feat of self-flagellation this year, when they were walking on asphalt in 85-degree heat.


One of the things that caught me off guard was the amount of eye contact passers-by were able to make with the Nazarenos. That in and of itself wasn't really anything of note, but imagining being able to make eye contact with the condemned of the Inquisition as they walked to accept their sentences was really unsettling.



There were some lighter moments in all of it, too, though.

I am pretty sure that Nazarenos are not supposed to give eskimo kisses.

And capirotes do make it very difficult to get through doors: 

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