Later Monday

So I'll start with the surface, the exterior, jotting down here lots of details for the sake of my own memory, because I want to have the details on record. I don't want to forget anything. Some further notes on the rest of Monday: after the early morning session to see the Cautivo, Asun and I did what we could to have some semblance of a normal day back at the apartment. I got a little work done, we had lunch, etc. We took a brief nap. In the evening we went downtown and saw a couple of processions. First we saw the Virgin that accompanies Crucificción go into the cathedral. Nice. Then, thinking that procession was due to make its way across Calle San Agustín after it exited the cathedral, we got a nice table on the terrace at Restaurante Tormes: perfect. Owner Pepe came over to chat and to reassure us that everything on the menu was good to go. But we didn't want a real dinner, just something light. So we have some wonderful ham and a good ensalada malagueña that has a wonderful little detail: some very fresh dill sprinkled on it. What a combination: just the right touch of cod, beautifully cured olives, super fresh slices of orange, the potato... all of which have been lightly blessed with good oil, and then the dill. Olé! Just as we're finishing our salad, here comes the procession. Our own baroque dinner theatre in an unbeatable little corner of Malaga, sitting right in the shadow of the sixteenth century Palacio Buenavista, now home to the Picasso Museum. But wait, the procession is turning left, there they go, down Calle Echegaray. Oh well. So it didn't come right by us, which would have been a lot of fun. We aren't the only ones fooled: Pepe thought they were coming our way and lots of others too–the terrace is packed. But the night is yet young and there are several processions winding their way through the city: next stop, Gitanos, which we see in the Plaza de la Merced: the Cristo de la Columna together with María Santísima de la O. It's interesting to see how the Christ throne takes the long way around the sqaure, the Virgin throne takes the short cut, and that way they can "meet up" at the corner where Picasso's birthplace is. How's that for a estampa malagueña? Each throne involves several hundred people, and the procession as a whole has at least a thousand direct participants. And a good ten thousand people filling the square. Overall a scene of relaxed anarchy with a parade slowly marching through it. And here we get the full effect of the "dolls for grown ups" phenomenon. I just love seeing how the portadores create a sense of theater in the way they "sway" the thrones. First, the operation of getting the thrones to face one another. Quite reminiscent of watching a cruise ship trying to dock. It takes time. OK, now Jesus is facing Mary. The thrones are lifted a pulso, arms fully extended. Well done! Wow! The crowd loves it."Oh my son, are you OK?" "I'll be fine, these Romans have got it in for me, but don't you worry..." Great theater! I'm sure many might take this as a rather blasphemous reading of what's going on, but that's not my intention by any means. There's something about it that reminds me of ballet. There's music, incredible costuming, movement, a simple story line...  a collective, complicated effort to produce an effect of great beauty. But at the same time there is the tremendous absurdity of it: what's with hundreds of men, with hundreds more in tow, lugging around a platform that weighs tons (literally) for eight or ten hours? Of course, for Christians who are accustomed to living Holy Week as a time of deep reflection, of quiet meditation on the passion of Jesus, Malaga in general may seem like a place to be completely avoided. Surely no church in its right mind could condone this. (This is not religion, it's idolatry, paganism!) I have a catholic friend who feels this way: this is not catholicism, this is not what we teach! And we have completely secular, non-believer friends who also skip town this week, who find the whole spectacle ridiculous, somewhat abominable, and perhaps even slightly embarrassing. So where are we? That's a question we're not going to be able to answer. It's beyond our scope. I guess you could just call it popular religion, and many do describe it in those terms. In any case, after Gitanos, we walked down to the Alameda to catch a glimpse of the Cautivo. Huge crowds. We caught the very end of another "meeting", this time between two different processions: the Virgin that accompanies Estudiantes greeting El Cautivo as it approached the Alameda from a little side street. A distance greeting. And that was it for us. We were tired and it was almost midnight. El Cautivo would be parading around until five am or so, but that wasn't for us. That was Monday. In the photo, Sentencia, in its traslado, going by the spot on Calle Granada right where Asun and I were enjoying some wonderful food. For the real procession she's on a much, much bigger throne. Restaurante Tormes is on the left and the tables are on the right. (To be continued...)