The Semana Santa (Holy Week) processions may look sinister but they are quite moving and far removed from practices you might normally associate with such clothing. In the bigger towns and cities, these processions are quite lavish including at times some very intricate animatronics but in smaller towns, such as in Níjar, they are much more “earthy” affairs.
This tradition of processions that take place prior to Easter Sunday, dates from medieval times and is notable for featuring life-like wood or plaster sculptures (pasos) of individual scenes of the events that supposedly happened between Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion and his burial, or images of the Virgin Mary showing grief for the torture and killing of her son. These are carried through the streets on the necks of costaleros (literally “sack men”, because of the costal, a sack-like cloth that they wear over their neck, to soften the burden) and can weigh up to five tonnes. The pasos are accompanied by hermandades and cofradías, religious brotherhoods that are common to a specific area of the city or town dressed in long robes, often with pointed hats and followed by women in black carrying candles for up to 11 hours. A brass band normally accompanies the group playing funeral marches, religious hymns or “marchas” written for the occasion.
We visited the small white town (pueblo blanco) of Níjar, a short distance from our home in San José on Maundy Thursday, known in Spanish as “Jueves Santo” to see the processions of two hermandades. One thing we DID notice in Níjar was that their pasos had wheels – well, I guess it makes the burden easier to bear :-)
The beautiful little Moorish “pueblo blanco” of Níjar is known for its superb handcrafts in pottery and is located on the edge of the Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata.
Níjar has been described as one of the most picturesque towns in the whole of Spain. It therefore comes highly recommended as a place to see and should be on any self respecting visitor’s itinerary. The visit is made all the more pleasant thanks to the many reasonably priced bars and restaurants offering delicious local dishes. There are also affordable hostels and hotels in and around Níjar.
A visit to Níjar guarantees anyone a flavour of real Andalucía and what better time to come than now!