19 April 2014

A traditional Good Friday in
a resort on the Costa del Sol

The Good Friday procession stands on the shoreline in La Carihuela (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

I am spending the Easter weekend in Spain, experiencing the Spanish traditions of the Easter celebrations. While I am here, I am staying in the Roc Lago Rojo Hotel in La Carihuela, once a picturesque fishing village on the edges of Torremolinos, outside Málaga.

The hotel is a traditional beachfront hotel, only 50 metres from the sandy beach of La Carihuela, which is almost 2 km long and stretches as far as the Benalmádena Leisure Port.

Torremolinos was a Spanish fishing village until the 1950s, when it began to develop as one the first resorts on the Costa del Sol. La Carihuela was once a traditional fishing village but only a few nooks and crannies from the old quarter remain as reminders of the area’s former identity. Today it is a popular resort with all the shops, bars, restaurants and amenities found in any popular Mediterranean resort.

On the evening Maundy Thursday [17 April 2014], two of us attended the Eucharist in the local Roman Catholic parish church, a Carmelite church dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

We were back in the church on the morning of Good Friday [18 April 2014], we were back in the church to follow the stations of the cross through La Carihuela, as local people carried a large, life-size cross with an image of the Crucified Christ through the streets of the resort.

It was interesting that in this overwhelmingly Catholic part of Spain, women played as much a part as men in carrying the Cross through the streets, bearing the large candle sticks and carrying the incense in the procession.

We stopped at different junctions, landmark bars and restaurants, and walked along the seaside promenade, as shopkeepers stood reverently in their doorways, and tourists watched from tables outside the cafés or as they made their way along the seafront.

At one stage, the procession made its way down onto the beach, where the procession leaders, with candles and a purple-covered cross, stopped at the edge of the water, procession and titled up the Cross with the image of the Crucified Christ.

It was an opportunity to proclaim Christ Crucified, and to bring the sacred into the secular, to make the secular sacred, an opportunity that is missed so often in many northern European societies.

Later in the afternoon, we caught the local train into Málaga, 15 km to the north, where we visited:

● the Cathedral – known as La Manquita (“the one-armed”) because one of its two towers has never been completed;

● the Roman Amphitheatre;

● the vast Alcazaba, built on the site of a Roman fortress in the 8th-11th centuries as part of the city’s ramparts and defences when Málaga was the principal port of the Moorish Kingdom of Granada.

● the Church of Santiago, where Picasso was baptised and where the local Russian Orthodox community were guests, marking Good Friday too, with an Orthodox epitaphios in front of the altar;

● Picasso’s birthplace, now a museum and home to the Fundación Picasso.

Spanish ladies in lace queuing outside a restaurant in Málaga on Good Friday (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Through the streets of Málaga they were taking down the chairs and viewing platforms that had been in place for the procession of the statues on Thursday evening. In the cathedral and the churches, many Spanish people were dressed formally as they came to pray quietly.

But even the women who dress in formal black, with large, traditional lace headdresses are “Ladies who Lunch” and queued without any hint of self-consciousness outside the restaurants for lunch.

We were back in La Carihuela in time for the Good Friday Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Eucharist in the small church around the corner from the hotel.

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