Friday, April 14, 2006

Sitting out Easter from my terrace

Easter is the time when the heavy drums are brought out from dusty store-rooms, tra-boom... tra-boom…, together with the figures of pale-looking Christs taken from their normal roosts behind the church altars. Christ suffering dreadfully on the cross, now equally fraught on the shoulders of the Carpenter’s sons. Perhaps la virgen follows behind, a large painted figure on a wooden plinth, with a purple mantle and, currently, a slightly bilious expression. She is carried, creaking gently, by six or eight devotees. Tra-boom… tra-boom…

The cadres of the faithful will be dressed in their sinister hoods and gowns as the whole procession lurches, stops and starts down the streets and through the crowds. The onlookers genuflect, perhaps for the first time in a twelvemonth and they pinch out their cigarettes as the figures pass.

In our pueblo, there’s not many people in the crowd and, tourist office excepted, not much enthusiasm from the participants either. Easter may be the main fiesta in the religious calendar, but it’s just an excuse for a few days on the costa and in the disco-pubs for most of the population. Some fifteen million people have left the cities for a few days off work, a chance for a ligue or a borrachera: an affair or a piss-up. Perhaps the faithful have gone to Sevilla; here they’ve come for the party.

The beach is full of visitors (no self-respecting local will go near the water until September) and the street that fronts Mojácar playa is nose-to-tail crammed with cars. I once ran an Easter picture on the front page of the paper. It was a pen and ink drawing by an artist called Ampudia in dramatic black slash. A picture of three crosses on a hill standing at slight angles to each other. Below, girls are sunbathing.

The bars, the restaurants and most of the souvenir shops are open on Easter Friday, even if the estate agents, mechanics and supermarkets have closed for the day. Certainly the gas station, with lead-free now at 1.16€, is doing wonderful business. You can pick up a box of chocolates, a bottle of whisky, some french letters or, of course, a sex-video while you are there. For some reason, they don’t sell cigarettes any more. It’s probably a moral thing.

As the sun sets over the pueblo, a brass band stutters enthusiastically through a mixture of Souza, pasodobles and sacred music as the volume in Mojácar’s six hundred bars swells and roars. The children in their flamenco suits gallop through the crowds, shrieking. There’ll be some thunder-flashes let off later. One way or another, we’ll stay up until dawn.

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