A Holy Week in Andalusia

apr 22, 2019 | Spain, Travel to

Semana Santa Algeciras (foto: Jochem Oomen)

Happy Easter to everyone! Last week I stayed in several towns in Spain’s deep south. Wherever I went, I came across Easter processions, accompanied by brass bands, incense and floats with wooden Bible images. But the thing that impressed me the most were los Nazarenos, men and woman dressed in robes with pointy heads in different colors. But let’s make it clear: this has absolutely no connection with the old American extremist group KKK. These are just Catholics who are having the time of their lives, because Semana Santa or Holy Week is in Spain guaranteed to be a big party!


A regular Semana Santa procession in Algeciras: some Nazarenos with pointy heads and a paso, a wooden float, and a lot of spectators.

Easter remains one of the most important Christian events of the year. Especially in Spanish-spoken countries, the week before Easter is an annual main happening. Each night processions are organized by local Catholic churches and thousands of persons do participate as Nazareno or spectator.

As a regular traveller, I saw four times processions in Algeciras and Jerez de la Frontera. It is practically unavoidable, but it was worth watching it for photographic and cultural reasons. In The Netherlands and Belgium, where I grew up, millions of people did leave the Catholic Church due to several issues. So, this was a quiete an interesting experience.


I already made clear that these Spanish and Latin American Catholic events, have absolutely no connection with the Ku Klux Klan, an old racist and extremist far right American group. But it might still be somewhat uncomfortable for North Americans and Northern Europeans if they are watching thousands of white pointy heads passing by. The reasons that los Nazarenos are wearing pointy heads are for the visual aspect and to guarantee the anonymity of the participants.

When I watched a procession passing by on Holy Monday in Algeciras, I noticed that the actors were mostly girls and women, who wore bracelets from the movement #Niunamenos, literally translates to “No one less” and refers to recent violence incidents against women in Spain, Latin America and the Caribbean region. I noticed as well that the participants had different ethnic backgrounds and that some of these girls even had tattoos in Arabic!

But fortunately, these Semana Santa parades aren’t just guys and girls with pointy heads. In the harbor city Algeciras, for example, the marineros, or sailors, were singing really loudly in the small streets “Yo soy un marinero, yo soy un novio Del Mar”, which means “I am a sailor and a boyfriend of the sea”.

Incense odour

How impressive the Nazarenos and marineros might be, the biggest tearjerkers were the kids who were bringing the incense. I noticed this odour in some streets during the whole week.

Unfortunately, the parades were cancelled on Thursday and Friday due to the rain. Apparently, the pasos, or wooden floats with sculptures, are five hundred years old and not that resistant against the weather.

And at the very last: how strange these processions might be, this was an interesting experience for me. Because now, I’ve some great photos!

Would you like to see such a typical Semana Santa parade? Just go to a Spanish-speaking country in the week before Easter and each town or village will organize at least one parade a day. I saw the parades in Algeciras and Jerez de la Frontera, which are not that touristy. So, in the lesser touristic places, you’ll have a more authentic experience. Enjoy!

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