Thursday, 8.30pm and the procession is for the Patron de Santa Vera Cruz. They wear a purple tunic and cape plus a yellow belt. The parade is within the old part of the city, from the cathedral, through the small market area, and back to the cathedral, hours later.
We are waiting for it to start. The crowd is getting bigger. Barriers hold us outside the large external double doors of the Avila Cathedral. Band members are coming out from insid and standing to one side. Spectacular uniforms. Dark blue with many gold and scarlet finishes and little banners over their instruments. Male and female, young and old. Now, members of another band that looks like a military one, with more standard dark blue uniforms are appearing outside. Again all ages and it includes some cadets.
Two men are opening the big outer doors of the Cathedral. A ramp is down so the large floats/juggernauts can be pushed up, onto the plaza.
Kid behind me, on dad’s shoulders 30′ before it starts, is complaining they are late (not yet) and that he is tired. No, we are not there yet! Soon.
Everyone is rugged up against the cold. We are so lucky: a good cloud cover and no rain or snow.
Members of the press are in our line of sight, in front of the barriers to get their shots. No, they’ve moved. Phew.
The woman in from of me has advanced ADHD. She hasn’t stopped moving. Turns to side, turns head, leans to her friend, picks up a young child, puts down child, I’ve never seen an adult as wriggly.
15′ to go. The large inner double doors are still shut. So happy I’m tall and can be in the second row back and still see. The crowd waits neither quietly nor entirely still.
You can see how, well over an hour earlier many were on the move, positioning for the procession in the small market area.
The doors are opened. On time.
Oh the hats! When they finally came out the leaders are amazing. Tall pointy hats. Tonight they are mostly purple, until the end of the parade when a few with other colours, including white, join. The wearers are young and old. Some are children, presumably with a parent. One might have been a bishop given the silver staff he carried.
Eye holes mean people are indistinguishable except for their shoes. On some people the hats stay in place and others have to keep pulling them down to align the two holes with their eyes. Some have a cord around the neck so it looks like they are ready to be hung with a bag over their face.
As to the floats/carts/juggernauts, I lost count. Maybe 8. All so different and they were not the ones I saw in the morning in the Cathedral. Half were hand pulled and pushed. Two men pulled on the front handle and two or three pushed from the back. These guys wore what looked like a flattened bag over their face, tied with a neck cord. Made them look like the peasants, the hard workers, with the important people wearing the peaks and walking in front of the floats.
The first manually moved float was a cross, carried by 2 guys on each quarter on their shoulders. They stopped every 50m or so to rest soon after they started. Imagine their shoulders and feet by the end of the route, a km or so over cobbled stones. Stop. Start. Stop.
Senior members of different military groups walked alongside some floats. This included those with the very strange plastic gerrycans as hats. Very distinctive. Very strange.
Some floats were motorised. Huge juggernauts with elaborate decorations on top telling, often, gruesome stories with a focus on Christ being scourged, for example. One or two with beatific women adoring him. These were each led by a guy with a pointy hat walking backwards to make sure the (hidden) driver kept the right direction. Don’t even think about the headlines: Jesus float mows down…..
The banging and discordant sounds from the first band were evident long after it had passed. After about 6 floats the other band joined the procession. More discordant blowing of a type of trumpet, as in Mexico, with a focus on the six or so drums at the back.
Then the final cart and people in different coloured garb. I suspect members of each confraternity attend the processions of others.
The Cathedral doors were shut. The crowd dispersed to surrounding streets in the gathering darkness. Some to see the procession passing through other parts of town and some, home. I stopped for a coffee and then home.
And now it’s Friday. A couple of marches today, a sermon on 6 words (which 6 I don’t know). I was much too late for the 05.30 procession. 😌