You are about to experience an extraordinary and fascinating series of events, Semana Santa in Cartajima, which has been awarded the accolade of Fiesta de Singularidad Turistica Provincial, given to local traditions firmly rooted in the past yet surviving still.
It is doubtful how much longer these celebrations will continue as modern legislation will curb the enthusiasm! It will be noisy at times as befits an extraordinary clash between pure paganism and Catholocism. In the big cities, Sevilla and Malaga for example, processions start on Palm Sunday, a week before Easter Sunday, and continue for the whole week retelling the story of Jesus’ week in Jerusalem. Cartajima doesn’t have enough icons so we begin on Wednesday.
Wednesday: The procession today was added just a couple of years ago and is not traditional. Silvia, who works here at the hotel, loves to carve in wood and one year she made a cross which now is the focus of this day´s procession of the village children. Accompanied by music from the Town Hall speakers which will last one to one and a half hours while the children are processing around the village.
Maundy Thursday: The Last Supper is set up in the church. At 7:30 pm the icon of Jesus with his hands bound by the Romans after his capture, goes in procession through the village followed by his mother, the weeping Virgen de la Soledad. Accompanied by traditional saetas which translates as the “flight of an arrow”. An ancient music, plaintive and with an emotional intensity and dramatic charge, the saeta is sung by the saetero, often from a balcony, and may be addressed to the statue of Jesus below or to that of his suffering mother, Mary (wikipedia).
7 am: The icon of Jesus carrying the cross goes through the village followed again by his mother, the Virgen de la Soledad and maybe, maybe not (I was told different things by different Town Hall officials) accompanied by music from the Town Hall speakers. Let’s hope not!
7 pm: An icon of the naked, crucified Christ in a coffin is taken down to what they call Calvario, a short walk from the village, followed by the mourning Virgen de la Soledad. The priest accompanies them through the Stations of the Cross. Saetas again for the duration of the procession.
12 midnight: the Virgen de la Soledad goes through the village alone without music and with candles.
Once the Virgin is safely back home, paganism takes over. The young (and not so young) villagers spend the next two nights collecting foliage to decorate Calle Ancha. This is accompanied by a lot of rockets and boisterous behaviour so don’t be alarmed by loud noises.
Throughout the day and night the villagers continue the foliage gathering. The women build a bower at the far end of Calle Ancha whilst the men cut down and position a very tall pole, el chopo, at the other end of the street. The men fashion a Judas figure and stuff it with rockets. It represents a person in the news: this year it could Rajoy, the Spanish president, or even Donald Trump. The women decorate the icon of the boy Jesus in the church.
Easter Sunday (or Resurrection Sunday as they call it here)
6:30 – 7 am: the now exhausted drink-sozzled men of the village take the icon of the boy Jesus from the church down to the bower in Calle Ancha. Many cohetes (rockets) and much frolicking. They gently position the icon in the bower and go home for a few hours sleep. Silence reigns for a short while.
12 noon: a band goes through the village to wake everybody up for the main event, Las Cortesias, for which Cartajima is famous.
12:30 The patron saint of the village, the Virgen del Rosario, is carried from the church, around the village and finally to Calle Ancha where she is reunited with her son. The two icons, mother and son, greet each other (Las Cortesias) and are carried back to the church.
The Judas figure is lit and you are warned to keep well back as it is full of rockets.
There is a mass in the church at about 1:30 pm after which a big party with music and food and …
All visitors are welcome to join in and/or help with any of these activities. Those who donate 10 € (which goes to pay for the band and other expenses involved) will be given a carnation to wear on Sunday.