Triana's Aquatic Virgin

by La Sevillana /
La Sevillana's picture
Aug 06, 2009 / 1 comments

I live in the Triana neighborhood of Seville. Triana, legendary (and some would say, mythological) home of bullfighters and gypsies. There's a certain romance here, I like to think, that you won't find in other districts. It's a nice neighborhood, made even nicer by the fact that we now have (yet) another virgin. Yes, after nearly 50 years of banishment to a tiny hermedad, la Virgin del Carmen has her own procession, once again.

I'm not really sure why this virgin was kept sequestered in that tiny hermedad, denied for so long the uncritical adulation reserved for virgins here, but her procession was, well, unusual in many respects.

Religious processions occur quite often in Seville, most famously during Semana Santa (Holy Week), but also intermittently throughout the year. These are serious, austere events attended by throngs of spectators numbering easily into the thousands. Each procession has its own paso, which is a sort of float, and large ones may have multiple pasos. Below is an image from Easter, 2008. Just for kicks, skip immediately to the last photo in this entry and compare the way these guys carry themselves with those participating in Carmen's procession. Amateurs.

Easter procession

Pasos are enormous, intricately carved wooden stages carried through the streets on the shoulders of Catholic devotees. Lovingly placed atop each of these is either a statue of Christ or the Virgin Mary. Pasos are true monuments to Spanish material culture, from the golden, hand sewn thread on the virgin's cape, to the ornate silver plated candleholders and the woodwork on the float itself.  Processions include not just a paso, but also a choir, a band (or bands, depending on the size of the procession), clergy, penitents, and children who pass out candy to spectators.

Paso with Christ  

The photo on the left is a paso depicting Christ at the Last Supper. The statues placed on top of these floats date back to Spain's Baroque Period, and the most popular pasos are, by far, those which carry the Virgin (below).

  Paso of the Virgin, Seville

Which brings me back to the subject of this new virgin - Carmen from the hood.

I've included photos (below) so that you may compare for yourself the archetypical paso with what I witnessed a few weeks ago. 


Carmen's procession as it leaves the shore and heads up the Guadalquivir River (above). Looks like utter chaos, doesn't it? 

I'm still not entirely sure what to think of this virgin, or her way-beyond-casual, shirtless devotees. I mean, guys, is this really proper behavior for a religious procession?

Casual paso

Seriously, though, this TGIF display of religious devotion is probably an adaptation to the intense heat of Sevilla's summer which, as all natives know, is insoportable. I'm not really sure what symbolic meaning my neighbors have attached to Carmen, but to me, she and her aquatic procession represent adaptive behavior at its finest, in the heart of conservative Andalusia.

This is the stuff I live for.



La Sevillana is the Anthropology Editor, Andalusia, for Wandering Educators.



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