Friday, March 21, 2008


These days we can watch Semana Santa via official webcast on the internet, but for many years, we depended on webcams of neighbors in the city which would often freeze up, and the traffic cameras of the city police, which are, of course, focused to show traffic patterns, and not close up views of pasos.

One year Papa decided to call his sister Amparo on her cell phone to see what everyone was doing. He expected her to be sitting in the seats on the Avenue, watching the cofradias of the Madrugada pass by. He dialed her number.

"Hello?" a man whispers.

"Who is this?" Papa says, quite surprised that it is not his sister speaking.

"Soy tu padre," answers el abuelo, still whispering.

Papa had called right in the middle of the procession of El Silencio, the cofradia to which he and his father and Uncle Antonio all belong. (Rafa and Louis are also members, even though they are too young to take part in the processions.) El Silencio is one of the serious confraternities, that does its penitential procession starting at 1:00 am on the morning of Good Friday. It is the oldest of the confraternities in Seville, founded in 1340. El abuelo was acting as one of the external deputies, which meant that he was one of a handful of men who are allowed to speak during the procession -- the majority being required to maintain silence until their procession returned to their church on Alfonso X street.

The external deputies are in charge of taking care of the procession in case anything unforeseen happens, which is why they are not required to maintain silence. For this reason, el abuelo had borrowed Amparo's cellphone. In the few seconds while they were speaking, the capataz knocked on the paso, the costaleros groaned as they lifted the float, and the flutes began to play again. Papa felt like he was standing right next to the paso, which of course, el abuelo was. It was a strange moment of realism which caused a special sort of homesickness, hearing the sounds of the procession, and knowing what was happening, where they were, what street they were on, what the candlewax and incense and flowers smelled like, and yet not being able to truly take part.

"Me tengo que ir," says el abuelo, because even though he carried a phone, he really wasn't supposed to stop and have a chat.

"Ya," says Papa. And suddenly the connection was gone.

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