Sketches Andaluz

Semana Santa (Monday) in Malaga. The weight of the Cofradía is evident
18.03.12. Perfect sunset coming down over Andalucía, descending in time with the plane.  Large lakes with jagged, jig-sawed edges, and a fading pink which stretches beyond the coast. Talked with Anas and Luisa, a Spanish/English couple. Romantic mountains gathering mist. A minute later the pink is orange and reduced, though broader bands of pink cirrus hang on (permanecen). Gibraltar looms, and Luisa points out a distant light – Tangier. Land in the new dark, wing tip blinking.

Found a cheap pensión in Malaga – go to stroke a small black cat in the lobby, but am stopped by a middle aged malagueño. ‘He doesn’t like to be touched. He’s crazy in the head (loco en la cabeza)’ [with international whirling single finger next to head]. The man, who might be as mad as the cat, goes on to explain his theory of human-animal relations. Sifting rapid and unfamiliar Spanish (I was later told by an Andalucían ‘we chew our words’, mangling the terminations), it is as follows:

La Coronación in Campillos
‘His [the cat’s] territory and his world is the lobby, and he never leaves. Once he left, and came straight back in because he was afraid of the noise outside. But the problem is that he can’t tell the difference between me and himself, he thinks I’m a cat, and Carlos [gesturing] is a cat, and he has to compete with us to be the alpha, the most macho (lo más macho). So if you try to touch him he might attack you. Carlos hates him, but I understand – we’re not different to animals, they’re just as intelligent, or we’re just as stupid. Both have a psyche and a body. For these reasons it’s not a good idea for you to stroke him.’

21.03.12. Peaceful to wait at Campillos station, a mile or so out of town down a track, whose length is disguised by the effect its straightness produces, in the afternoon sun.  Hundreds of sparrows very busy in negotiations between bare trees lining the tracks. The view to the right is agricultural, oddly-peaked hills and fields in various stages of cultivation, variously parched different browns. To the left the Sierra begins, imposing lumps of what looks like grit stone.

Political graffiti in Campillos ('don't vote, fight')

Left with four hours to kill in Bobadilla, after missing a connecting train. I ask the man behind the desk what there is to do, and his companion replies, shaking his head: ‘there is very little’ (hay pocas cosas). The ticket man corrects him, as befits the authority of his station: No. No hay nada. (‘there is nothing’). He is not quite right – an abandoned soap and olive oil factory is pleasingly gothic-industrial in its ruination.

31. 03.12. Recuerdos de la semana pasada/Memories of the last week:

Un viejo cantaba Flamenco a una chica guapa en el bar ‘Embrujado’. Ella se puso turbada.

Parading up the hill away from the church into Campillos old town for a Semana Santa warm up, brass band at our backs. Even this small town contains five such bands, each with their own club house and favoured bar. Ours, by luck, is La Coronación – hasta la muerte!

Rose petals being dropped onto the Virgin as a Cofradía leaves La Casa de Hermandad (Campillos)
Lago Fuente de Piedra. Cuándo se palmeó las manos, tal vez cien Flamencos, alas rosadas y cuerpos blancos, brincaron hacía al cielo.

1. 04. 12. Domingo de Los Ramos (Palm Sunday), processions in Campillos and Cabra. In the latter, on tour with La Coronación, a Campillos band contracted to play for a Cabra Cofradía (devotional float used in Semana Santa processions). There are, it turns out, two main ways of carrying one (at least in Andalucía), the importance of method becoming evident only upon seeing one and realising quite how heavy they must be, built as they are of wood and metal, with ornamentation in silver and gold.

In Cabra, as in all Córdoba province, the Sevillian approach is taken: the biggest men carry the Cofradía on thick back parts of their necks, supported by sack cloths. They are obscured underneath the float by a black cloth, and have to work a good deal harder than those carrying the Cofradía on their shoulders, the style in Málaga and Granada provinces. Hidden from view apart from their feet, these men lug the Cofradía through increasingly narrow streets to the rhythm of the band. Their size is belied by the practiced dance-step their feet betray beneath the drapes, moving forwards for, say, five–ten minutes at a time before resting for as long again. Owing to the many pauses, the physical condition of the people carrying the Cofradía give the whole thing a stop-start rhythm, with peaks of motion and excitement alternating with the buying of snacks and searching for bathrooms in nearby bars.

Semana Santa in Cabra

Each time they heft the thing onto their backs the people immediately around them applaud the effort, and with good reason: the parade becomes something of an endurance test for everyone involved, lasting, all told, from 7pm until 1pm, a full six hours. I remember also the palpable release of tension as the Cofradía eased through the church’s portal, only just wide enough for it.

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