Published on: Amended:
Seville (Spain) (AFP) – With Easter processions having been canceled for the past two years due to the coronavirus pandemic, Spain’s colorful Holy Week marches made their long-awaited return to the streets on Sunday.
The holiday, which lasts until Easter Day on April 17, is a time when huge crowds traditionally gather to watch the elaborate processions in this deeply Catholic country.
Organized by brotherhoods, the parades feature dozens of people dressed in religious tunics and distinctive pointed hoods and elaborate floats topped with statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary.
Some of the processions date back hundreds of years.
“We are very excited after two years” of not being able to celebrate Holy Week, said Rafael Perez of the Brotherhood of Work and Light, which organizes one of the processions in the southern city of Granada.
In Seville – whose population of 680,000 doubles during Holy Week – people played traditional processional music over loudspeakers or sang mournful saetas from balconies, a capella ballads about the death of Jesus and the sorrow for his mother.
It was all thrown up in the air in mid-March 2020 when the country went into lockdown as the virus took hold a month before Easter, hitting Spain hard as it spread like wildfire .
In one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, Spain has canceled all religious celebrations, prompting some to improvise festivities at home on their balconies, mainly in the south where Easter processions have taken place for centuries.
The situation improved slightly last year, although with memories still fresh of the explosion of virus cases after Christmas, authorities imposed curfews and a travel ban between regions that clouded the festivities.
The impressive Holy Week parades in the southern city of Seville, which had not been canceled since 1933, have been canceled for a second straight year in a move mirrored across Spain.
Return of tourists
This year, Spaniards want to make up for lost time and enjoy an Easter week like in the pre-pandemic era, when they made an average of seven million trips across the country to visit family. or go to the beach, according to figures from Statistica.
“The tourism and commercial outlook for Holy Week 2022, the first after two years without being able to celebrate due to the pandemic, is close to 90% of the sales levels recorded in 2019,” the tourism association Exceltur said on Thursday.
In April 2019, a total of seven million foreign tourists visited Spain. Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said she hoped to see 80% of that figure, which would bring much-needed relief to the country’s hard-hit tourism sector.
Before the pandemic, Spain was the second most popular tourist destination in the world after France.
With more than 92% of its 47 million people fully vaccinated, Spain launched a new strategy last month to treat the virus as an endemic illness like the flu, removing the requirement for people with mild cases of Covid-19 to self-isolate.
In February he ended a rule requiring people to wear masks outdoors and on April 20, just after Easter, he will also remove a mask mandate indoors, except in hospitals and on transport. public.
Seville town hall says it expects “a strong turnout after two years without celebrations” with more than 70 brotherhoods ready to organize their traditional marches through the city.
With hundreds of thousands of visitors expected, the regional government of Andalusia has recommended that all participants wear masks and that tests are carried out on the many teams transporting the huge religious floats bearing statues of the Virgin Mary and Christ. .
© 2022 AFP