I stood motionless, my eyes wide open, as I observed the procession slowly passing in front of me. Horrified, I saw men scourging themselves as they walked by, their vest open at the back for all to see the injuries they were inflicting themselves. I was about to scream, but a quick look around made it plain that I was the only one aghast at the barbarity. Was that faith? Enjoying his own pain? The pain of others? The line between faith and tradition is a thin one, none of the two ever justified any inhuman behaviour to me. I turned around and stepped over a few feet while opening my path through the joyful crowd.
The next day, my weary look told me to take the morning easy, so I sat at a terrace table of the café closest to my hotel to have breakfast. The crowd in the square in front of the café got larger and larger and I noticed the entrance of a small church at one of the corners of the plaza. My heart started racing, but as I had no energy, I remained seated. I quickly scanned the assembled flock. Neither scouring men were in sight, or hermanos de Cofradía and their hoods with a conical tip so similar to the Ku Klux Klan. A buzzing crossed through the onlookers as someone started shouting loud. The café terrace was on a platform, thus I curiously had one the best spot in the square. From my seat, I saw a large float with a bleeding Christ, a moment ago still on the floor, being set into motion. Apart from the shouting of the man, silence filled the space. The waiters also came out to see, and stood there, eager. At my puzzled look, one of them explained that the church door was too low for the float, thus the porters had to go on their knee to bring the gigantic statue out of the church. I looked again towards the entrance, and suddenly I held my breath, too. A few simple words brought to light the titanic task of those men under the 2.000 kg heavy float. The porters took miniature steps and the distance they covered after several minutes was the same as between my cappuccino cup and the opposite edge of my small table. Minutes went by, and by then only half of the float poked out of the church portal. I found myself paying for my breakfast and making my way to the front of the church. Even though I did not reach the front line, my height allowed a better view than many. Around the float a drape concealed the sweating bodies of the porters, wearingly moving in unison, gulping and gasping for air. Entranced, I unconsciously let myself be swallowed by the gripping energy of the crowd, breathing as one being, slow, careful breath to avoid deflecting the porters’ focus on their feet. A few more steps and… it was done. The float was finally in the open air, free to shine its truculent beauty under the April sun. As the porters lowered their burden on the pavement, my throat tightened and, to my shame, a tear fell from the corner of one eye.
All new subscribers will also receive the first five chapters of my historical adventure l Returning East, due to appear on February 26th 2022!