KKK or Spanish Holiday? Hatred vs Humility

April 1, 2016

As the mass media continues to distribute narrow ideologies around the world, consumers of such messages are left with a very limited understanding of particular images and words. However, when one chooses to look or think outside of that bubble, many of these preconceived connotations begin to change.

Dramatic processions engulf the city of Sevilla and many other regions in the south of Spain each year. The intimate and narrow streets shut down and the mere sight of walking space is a highly sought after commodity. Cameras and selfie sticks peak above the massive crowds. It’s not the Rose Parade, and Obama is not in town. It’s Holy Week, or as the Spaniards dub it, “Semana Santa,” – the week long sacred festivities recognizing the Easter holiday.

What appears to be a light and lovely celebration is actually far more profound when you take a deeper look.

Marching bands on Good Friday walking in front and behind heavy and ornamented floats release a very dark and melancholy tune as they commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. These floats are carrying extremely heavy icons and statues from scenes of Jesus’ life leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection, including many highly admired monuments dedicated to the Virgin Mary. As they navigate through the narrow roads, they appear to be floating. However, there are no wheels below moving them. There are men, human beings, carrying thousands of pounds of weight on their backs, hidden underneath the elaborate floats. They are known as sack men, or “costaleros”.

“For me, it is a humbling honor to take part in the festivities each year and carry these blessed platforms on my back. It represents the burden our Lord carried for us, and so it is the least that I can do, that we can do,” said Luis Fernandez, an “hermano” (brother) from the local Catholic church and dedicated participant.

Now if the sight of human beings voluntarily subjecting themselves to a very painful task is not memorable enough, the image of the deacons (and now deaconesses), is undoubtedly an unforgettable one. They are holding candles and crosses as a part of the annual procession, also walking alongside the floats, but they are wearing far more than the typical clergy attire, they are dressed in “capirotes”- cloaks and hoods highly reminiscent of what the Ku Klux Klan wears for their ceremonies. Of course, the two processions are quite different from one another, but the image – almost identical.

“The capirote dress has been around since the Inquisition era and Middle Ages, it was originally worn as a sign of penance and humility when violating religious code. Covering up as a reflection of humility also coincided with Semana Santa processions, where the “hermandades” (brotherhoods) participating would display a sense of ‘denying oneself’,” Father Gomez noted.

The “brotherhoods” participating in the Semana Santa processions, either as deacons or sack men carrying the floats, have increasingly emphasized a critical sense of unity as a congregation and spiritual family serving for their convictions. – Thus comes the Ku Klux Klan, adopting the traditional attire as they too desired to highlight their own sense of brotherhood. A bit distorted, a very different conviction, yet the two traditions have survived many generations.

So, when Spaniards see the capirote, they see humility, modesty, and a beautiful tradition; in fact many of the deacons are actually children and they give away candy! However, when an American see’s the notorious pointed hat, they see hatred, racism, and utter ignorance.

Amazing how ancient images and words have been manipulated over the years by extremists. We saw this with the swastika, which was once a positive sign for good luck and wellness in Eastern Indian cultures, and later transformed into a symbol blindly justifying persecution and genocide. We yet still witness this today with the term “Jihad” – which was once a beautiful poetic term and name acknowledging the power of perseverance, and is now an infamous word that attempts to warrant war against humanity.

And so we see, that many of the ugliest things in this world were actually beautiful in origin, just twisted by empty souls seeking power and validation. So is it the KKK or Holiday? In this case, just Easter per usual en Espana.