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9th August 2007

Holy Week Processions: An Eyewitness Account!

One of our employees reports on the colourful festivals that make up an important part of the cultural life of the region.

It is almost possible to enjoy a fiesta in Spain every day of the year. There is always something of interest in some part of the country.

The two most celebrated fiestas are the Easter week fiestas ("Samana Santa") and the Moors and Christians ("Moros y Cristianos" - link in Spanish). The latter take place at different times of the year in each town.

Fiestas are spectacular events even in the smaller towns and no expense is spared on costumes and the amazing firework displays afterwards.

Cartagena hosts some of the most spectacular festivals in Spain. The Easter week has a procession every day or evening from Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos) to Easter Monday (Lunes de Pascua). The processions portray life, colour, culture and music wall with a very religious meaning. I have not yet had the opportunity to view these personally yet in Cartagena, but the photographs I have seen are amazing.

In my own small locality the processions can be up to two hours long and there are many superb floats (pasos) depicting the story of the Holy Week.

During October Cartagena hosts the annual remembrance of the invasion of the Romans into the town. This fiesta I saw for myself for the first time last year. The event drew huge crowds and there was an air of anticipation and apprehension as the Roman war vessel sailed across the bay and into the port, carrying hords of armed and fierce looking invading Romans.

The Cartaginenses in full armour awaited on the quayside drums rolling! I had imagined that arrows would fly immediately, but both Romans and Cartaginenses marched off with their musical accompaniments, peaceable until they reached the battle field directly under the castle wall and war broke out. Then the mounted soldiers and the foot soldiers went into full battle. Swords glinted in the sunlight and arrows flew through the air as the battle raged for nearly an hour before the Cartaginenses surrended, the dead were collected and the walking wounded limped off the gory battle field.

After a lull in the proceedings the victorious Romans paraded through the main narrow street of Cartagena. The bars and cafes which line the street had put out tables and chairs for the spectators. The victorious Romans passed through with magnificent horse displays as well on foot. Beautifully dressed floats passed by with their occupants throwing out sweets for the children who scrambled gleefully among chairs and feet for their treats. Barrels of wine were trundled through dispensing small glasses of mead for the adult spectators.

The parade lasted for around two hours culminating in a magnificent fire work display in the main Plaza, in which the fountains add to the experience with their constantly changing colours.