We arrived in Ronda in time to catch more Semana Santa festivities, and after the massive celebrations of Malaga it was interesting to see what happens in a small town. Not that Semana Santa in Ronda isn’t a big affair. Most of the town seems to turn out for the numerous parades that wind their way from outlying barrios to Plaza Socorro, and back again. We made our way towards Barrio San Cristobal where one procession started around 8pm, just after darkness had fallen.
It was a chilly evening – at an altitude of 744m, Ronda can get cold at this time of year – and we had to hang around for a while waiting for things to get going. Eventually people started to gather, food vendors passed up and down the lines, and the sense of anticipation grew. Despite the cold night air, seeing a procession at night is an atmospheric experience, particularly as many people in the procession carry big candles, including small children. The main float of the Virgin was brilliantly illuminated with dozens of candles.
Following the Reconquista, when Spain was united under Ferdinand and Isabella, forging a Catholic, Christian identity for a nation that had been largely Islamic for 700 years was a major undertaking. Semana Santa became a tool for doing just that, and the origins of the celebration as it now exists dates back to just after the end of Moorish rule in 1492. In Ronda, the first written records of the Semana Santa celebrations date from 1538, although it probably started earlier, giving the city 500 years of tradition to draw upon.
There were definitely some differences between Ronda and Malaga. There were still plenty of long pointy hats, but there were also a number of different types of headdress, including one that looks uncannily like those you see in any film or documentary about ancient Egypt. In the procession in Barrio San Cristobal there were also a lot of women elegantly dressed in black lace, something else we’d not seen in Malaga
The mixture of young and old, of fun-filled festival and sombre religious parade, makes the night processions well worth going to. The good thing, for the casual observer, is that the floats weigh so much that it impossible for the procession to move at much more than a snails pace. We watched the procession file past and then wandered off with the crowd to find a tapas bar, for a bit of warmth and sustenance.
Some food and a couple of glasses of vino tinto later, we caught up with the procession still some way from the centre of Ronda. It literally takes hours for a procession to complete its course, which tells you a lot about the dedication and devotion of the people who participate, especially those carrying the floats. It also allows the less devoted to visit a few tapas bars and not miss any of the spectacle.