Semana Santa - All in favour?

I've lived in Spain for almost 15 years and most of that time has been spent in Andalucia. I've come to expect a lot of things. For example, I expect that news of Semana Santa hits the press long before Easter is anywhere in sight, that everyone from the smallest child to the greatest politician seems eager to join or follow the Holy Week processions and that I'd better forget about any business I have in town or city centres during that one week when Andalucia is overflowing with passion - and visitors - and the sounds of sad music, beating drums and mournful saetas take over the region. Yes, I've come to expect it all. But what I never expected was to hear a dissenting voice at this time of year. Given the fervour - religious and cultural - and the seemingly unanimous adoration of the religious images that parade up and down and wind in and out and around the streets of every municipality - who would dare to stand up and suggest it's all too much? That it's gotten out of hand? When local papers devote whole sections for weeks to Semana Santa preparations - the theatre style seating to be set up, the brotherhoods bickering over this or that issue, complaining about lack of support from the town hall or too much paper work to secure this year's passage through the city, the seamstresses working so hard to make new clothes for the Virgin Mary... Who would have the guts to stand up and speak out against Semana Santa? Well, not long ago I was listening to a "tertulia" (Spanish style round table discussion which features everyone interrupting everyone and a lot of everyone simply talking at once) on Radio Ser and was shocked to hear one member of the discussion group voice his utter disagreement with the way Semana Santa takes over cities like Seville, shutting everything down, literally "collapsing" the roads and services as police cordone off the centre and dedicate all that public space to Holy Week processions. His argument was simple and clear: the city as a public space is to be shared by all. How can it be that once a year the whole place is shut down for a religious festival - particularly for a Catholic religious festival? What about non-Catholic citizens? What about non-religious citizens? What about everyone else? Food for thought, that's for sure. However, beware, these are things that only a Spaniard could suggest. And only a brave one at that! And the voice of this one, brave dissenting citizen will surely be lost in the din of yet another round of processions and saetas and beating drums and marching bands that will take over Seville and every other city this week. After all, we're not just talking about religion or culture here. This is big money!
Blog published on 6 April 2009