Spain is a beautiful country. It is composed of cultural diversity and unique architecture. It is a country filled with history, character, and folklore. Within its peninsula, there are many cities with unique traditions and festivals. Seville is one of those cities. It is located in the southern portion of Spain, and it is the capital of Andalusia. It is a very dear city to me. During the three years I lived there, I enjoyed learning what made Seville such a special city. I had a chance of a lifetime to build memories that have stayed with me for over three decades. The years I spent there made me realize that its people, architecture, cultural traditions, and folklore are what bring the heart of Seville to life.
Seville holds beautiful architectural buildings. The Moors built many of them during their rule of Spain. Included among them is The Cathedral of Seville with its bell tower, named La Giralda. It was originally a Moor Mosque, and later converted to a Christian Church.
The Cathedral of Seville is one of the three largest churches in the world; its beauty is beyond compare. Its Gothic style building is intimidating in size, design, and intricate details. The interior is just as beautiful as its architecture. The interiors have giant arches, beautiful stained glass windows, statues, and artworks, among the many. The Cathedral holds the remains of Christopher Columbus. Since he discovered Puerto Rico, I thought that visiting the place that held his tomb was a rare privilege and an unforgettable memory.
I remember visiting the Cathedral many times. I would go there with friends. We would tour the Cathedral and then head to La Giralda, which we use to climb, many inclined ramps, to get to the top. Once at the top, we enjoyed the best view of Seville. I had never climbed a bell tower. I visited the Cathedral dozens of times, and each time, I made a point of climbing the ramps of La Giralda. I never got tired of it.
In addition to the Cathedral, Seville has many other architectural wonders, including; The Torre de Oro (Tower of Gold), The Real Alcazar (A moor styled palace), Plaza de España, and the “Archivo de las Indias” or Indian Archives (holds Columbus diaries). All are beautiful, unique, and filled with their own history.
I spent many days visiting each. I learned a different kind of history while living in Seville. I learned about the connections it had to the discovery of Puerto Rico and the Americas. I learned about their roots, their ancestors, their heritage, and the pride that makes the city so special.
Cultural Traditions and Folklore
Seville celebrates two unique traditions. One is the Processions during “Semana Santa,” or Holy week, and the other is “La Feria de Abril” or April’s Fair.
During Holy Week, the city of Seville celebrates the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, differently than we do in the United States. While U. S. concentrates on Easter, Seville concentrates on the religious meaning of it. During that week, Seville’s streets are the stage for the processions of saints and virgins that parade its streets.
It is not a parade of marching bands, nor a parade of motorized floats that have people on them. Instead, it is a parade of man-carried floats. Each float carries statues of Virgin’s, Jesus, and others. The floats are built of wood and have the capacity to fit men underneath, who carry the float on their shoulders, while they walk through the streets of Seville. Other men guide those that carry the floats.
The float is followed by people through the streets and accompanied by, at times, by the singing of “Zaetas”. The Zaeta is sang in A Cappella, and is a tribute to the Virgin, Saint, or Jesus. The person sings from a balcony on the second story of any of the houses along the procession route. I went, all three years, to see the processions. The experience is exhilarating. The most impressive memory of the event was the reaction of the crowds. People are in tears from the emotional impact this tradition has. The seriousness of the event manifests itself through the slumber mood of those present.
The people of Seville actively participate in the processions. The streets fill with crowds. I was one of them. I personally attended each year. It is almost impossible to see all of them, but the ones I saw, were impressive. To watch the float through the street made me understand the methodical movement of the men under the float. They walk in rhythm, left, right, left. They take slight turns. The float sways side to side as they carry it through the streets. They are blind to the road. They listen to a person or persons that guide them as they walk. It seemed as a penance. The brute force they exert to carry this floats is unreal.
The people that followed in the processions do so in reverence to the meaning of Holy week. The reality of their celebration is based on faith, belief, and repentance. To be present and live the experience was unforgettable, moving, and heart breaking. It was hard to be there and not be thankful for God’s grace and the forgiveness of our sins by the death of his son Jesus.
La Feria de Abril
Each April, the city of Seville hosts “La Feria de Abril.” This event lasts a whole week. There are two areas in the fair: the first, houses all the tents. The second includes all the carnival rides and entertainment. The second was my favorite. I spent endless hours in that section of the fair. However, the tents are the ones that hold the folklore and the cultural traditions.
The tents are private or public. Their purpose is to have the different merchants or families offer services, food, drink, music or just family fun. The music played throughout, includes songs that feature lyrics and rhythm to the dance, “La Sevillana,” a folkloric dance from Seville. I remember walking around and peeking into the tents. I could hear the different “Sevillanas” sung and played by men with guitars, while the participants danced and had fun.
The women dress up in beautiful folkloric “Flamenco” dresses, filled with ruffles on the sleeves and bottom of the dress. The dresses hug and pronounce the women’s curve. Their hair is up in a bun and adorned by a “Peineta” or decorative comb. The men dress up in outfits that date back to old time cattle ranchers. It includes a shirt, short waistcoat, and straight pants. The women wear dancing high-heeled shoes, and the men wear boots. You see, parts of “La Sevillana,” entail the tapping of the heel on the floor, to increase sound and emphasize parts of the dance. During my time in Seville, I wore the “Flamenco” dresses at the fair, and learned to dance “La Sevillana.” I did so, not because I wanted to dress up and dance, but because I felt it in my heart. I felt as I was part of its culture and heritage. I felt as if Seville had awaken my roots, knowledge, and passion for its beauty, traditions, and culture.
The years spent in Seville hold a special place in my heart. I learned a different kind of history, many new traditions, and unique folklore. Seville offers many architectural wonders along with a fascinating, diverse, and culturally rich experience. The heart and soul of Seville belongs to its people. Two of my dearest friends, I met during my time there. Seville has a way of influencing, captivating, and mesmerizing those that come in contact with it. When I left Seville, it kept a piece of my heart and soul, in exchange for the memories I took with me. Memories of “a once in a lifetime” moments that have stayed with me through the years.