Mother of God.

I have a lot of “Ooooh Guiri” moments. You know, when I do something SO American, I wonder how I’ve survived four years living outside of the Grand Old Republic. Something along the lines of saying swear words when there are other unknown English speakers around, like drinking in churches at a small town fair (wait, that wasn’t me), like telling a bouncer we didn’t want to go to his bar because it smelled like onions (wait, that wasn’t me either).

En fin, my “Oooh Guiri” moments are like dumb blonde moments.

Today was no exception. Faced with no grading to do, a clean house and a good night’s sleep behind me (grandma!), I chose to  being all Christmas-y. My first stop was to Plaza Nueva and the city’s Nativity Scene.

Housed in the salmon-pink palace that dominates the square, the city’s official belén tells the story of the annunciation, birth of Christ and the adoration of the Magi. Using fancy lighting, adobe-looking villages, figurines and constructing the entire town of Bethlehem, the most important moments of young Christ’s life are immortalized. With the diorama comes the line that wraps around the building up towards Plaza del Salvador.

Christa and I had little to do, so we marched towards the camel-ridden zoco in Encarnación before continuing onto an artisan market in a tucked-away plaza in Macarena. I badly needed cash, so my next stop had to be the Ronda Histórica, a busy road that rings the center of the city. The stream of people in front of the home of Sevilla’s most important virgin (oh, and this song) made me scratch my head, so I took out my money, got in line and stood on tip toe to see how much longer I’d have to wait to see baby Jesus again.

Within ten minutes, I had entered the iron gates in the small patio directly in front of the basilica. As one of Seville’s oldest depictions of the Virgin Mother, she’s the patroness of bullfighters and highly revered in Seville. Her procession on Maudy Thursday draws revelers during the wee hours of the morning as she is paraded from her temple along the Ronda to the Cathedral and back. I stated in my bucketlist that I’d like to see her in her basilica, but I happened to choose her feast day to do it. #Ooohguiri

On the right side of the wide, wooden doors, we queued in a perfectly straight line, while others from the hermandad, the term used to describe the religious brotherhoods, passed through the left side. Nuns filled the courtyard, passing cans of Lemon Fanta to several small children in line. I noticed the Virgin was not above the altar in an exalted place as she usually is in other churches. Brothers shouted, “Senores, colaboren con nosotros en la Loteria de Navidad! Decimos a 25 euros!” The Virgen’s distraught face graced the flimsy strips of paper I’d liken to a 50-50 lottery.

I entered the basilica, shivering as I stepped out of the sun, and made the sign of the cross as my Catholic grandmother taught me. As my confirmation saint is Lucia, I spotted her easily and made a mental recollection to find a donation box as I normally do. Girls with piercings and boys in track suits passed by, tears in their eyes. As I passed the small chapels and got closer to the front, I realized the Virgin was on the ground and people were passing in front of her. I had inadvertently come on December 18th, the Feast Day of Su Santísima Virgen de la Esperanza de la Macarena, and was in line to perform the Besamanos, or hand kissing, of the Virgin.

Moral dilemma: Do I kiss the hand of a wooden and cloth statue who I am sworn to dislike because I much prefer the Virgen de la Esperanza de Triana? Or do I look like an asshole and get out of line?

I chose to stay in, already preparing a speech to give Cait over the phone (I’m pretty sure she has an estampilla of La Macarena in her wallet). As we crept closer, her crown of stars and five red roses, a gift from the bullfighter Joey the Little Chicken Joselito el Gallo, came into view and people began weeping. Green gown flowing behind her up the steps to the altar, she stood just a bit taller than I do, but without real legs, I doubt that was her real height.

When it was my turn, toes touching the plush red carpet, I took my place between two altar boys with hair gelled to perfection. The señora in front of me’s lip quivered as she knelt down, kissed one of the only actual parts of the Virgen (most venerated images only have the face, neck, arms and hands, while the rest if a cloth dummy), finishing by making a sign of the cross and having her husband snap a picture.

I looked her dead in the face. She somehow seemed to have a softer expression than the one I’d seen emblazoned on reliefs, azulejos, keychains and tattoos. Her hand was outstretched, and I could see where people had been kissing her for the last 80 years – the plaster had worn right through to the wood. After the señora took her photo, the altarboy wiped down the hand with a damp cloth, and it was my turn.

I left quickly, nearly calling Cait before I’d even crossed the threshold. I didn’t know how to make sense of the whole thing, especially because I consider this whole Semana Santa thing to be a violation of that commandment that says you shouldn’t worship idols, but I couldn’t stop laughing at my Guiri Moment.

Her response to my giggles? “Oh, Jesus Christ. I mean Mother of Jesus Christ.”

How to make Torrijas for Holy Week

Mariquilla, my boss’s daughter, came flouncing into my office. “Miss Cat, IIIIIIII need the, um, capirote.”


I asked her what it was, or to describe it, thinking it could be one of the two things in the preschool workroom. A powder blue nazareno robe or a pointed nazareno hat. She indicated the hat and it hit me: We’re already in Holy Week. Seven short days from now, I’ll be wheeling a Virgin Mary throughout the streets of the neighborhood I work in with the kids dressed in mantillas, robes and those KKK image-invoking hats. And in eight, I’ll be heading to Romania for what my friend Bryan has called the fight of vampires versus gypsies.

While visions of marshmallow peeps and drugstore jelly beans dance in my head, I set out to prove to my boyfriend that I’m not a “blue-eyed Homer Simpson” as he recently dubbed me, so I made Spain’s answer to a chocolate bunny: torrijas. Made like French Toast, this honey- and cinnamon-sweetened bread is only eaten in the week leading up to Easter.

One french bread bar (better if from the day before), cut into thick slices
1 cup milk
2 medium-sized eggs
one stick of cinnamon
2 tablespoons flour

In a shallow bowl, pour the milk and add a few shakes of cinnamon, depending on taste. Beat the two eggs in a second shallow bowl and slowly add flour. Dip thick-cut slices of bread into the milk so that they’re saturated, but not dripping, in milk, then pass them to the bowl of eggs, turning over to ensure there’s egg enough to fry.

Heat a good amount of olive oil on the stove top. After it bubbles, it will start to smoke; this means it’s hot and perfect for frying. Place the bread in the oil, being careful not to burn it (usually twice on each side is perfect). When finished, cover in sugar or honey.

Yeah, or just make french toast and call it Typical Spanish (Thanks to Susana, the boss of torrijas, for helping me with the recipe and photo from

Toros a Tope

After spending a week traveling through central Europe and a few hours elbowing through crowds to see Holy Week processions, I needed to escape. Too many somber, Lenten beer-less (ok, not really) days of penitence and adoration.I needed to go see a bull being released.So, I´ve been a bad Catholic and haven´t given up anything for Lent for years, so Easter to me, with its lack of chocolate bunnies, easter egg dye and boiled ham feel like just another Sunday to me. I begged Kike to take me to Arcos de la Fontera, a beautiful town perched on twin peaks, to see my friend CeCe and the famous Toro de Aleluya.

While the bull-friendly nation of Spain has found itself in the middle of controversy for its festivals involving the beasts, I, for one, love its adherence to tradition. The town of Denia has a summer fair where the daring can swim in the Mediterranean, and San Fermines, or the Running of the Bulls in Hemingway’s Pamplona, is one of the most well-known spectacles in Spain. I had to settle for something a little smaller.

CeCe greeted Kike and I with a mimosa, to which he turned up his nose and I gladly took. We found a spot behind red iron gates holding back spectators from the Paseo, the main street between the old and new towns. People wore matching t-shirts and hung off of balconies, signs – anything they could to get a good view of the encierro path.

Mimosas turned to beer and rebujito, and after two hours in the sun, the bull was finally released. He was FLOOOOOOOOJO. Although the gate was a mere 50 meters down the road, the pistol sounded and everyone screamed…and we waited. A band taunted the bull, and young chulos ran up and down, attempting to get the bull, enticed by movement, to move. He stood there, flapping his tail and looking uninterested.

I wiggled my way up the front, hopeful I´d get a few pictures. Instead, I got a bunch of people running and a few kicks in the face from the teenagers perched on the gates over my head. I decided I was over it, so we kept drinking our beer and eating homemade bocadillos.

The bull continued up and down the street, kids screaming and flapping noise-makers adorned with ribbons the colors of Andalucía. during the hour-long descanso, we wandered down into one of the main plazas of the new part of town, which was ringed with vendors, beer tents and snack carts. We took a few shots (served by one of Cece’s coworkers), took pictures with all her high schoolers and enjoyed the sunshine. The whole place had been converted to an outdoor disco full of skanky looking girls and chulos in white-rimmed sun glasses.

Aline, Kate, me, CeCe, Isabel and Amanda at the encierro

Ah Spain and your never-ending parties and canis. Thankfully, Feria is two short weeks away. ¡Olé!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...