Ever since I first visited Granda in 1998, that city had a special place in my memory, alongside Rome (and later: Naples, Rio and Delhi), as a truly a magical place (to use the most rote description possible).
In my memory, at least, even the worst moments I spent in those places (and also Rio and Delhi) are likely to be better than the best moments I spend elsewhere and in these cities, I did not feel merely alive but permanently exalted and no corner of these places, no matter how objectively plain, or even ugly and unsanitary, is devoid of charm.
Granada, as by far the smallest of them all, is special because its beauty, nestled in the mountains is compact and grandiose: from Alhambra’s moorish extravagance to triumphant architecture of its many churches.
The second time I visited Granada was on a road-trip in 2014 and we were there for the Holy Week. The numerous processions in full Catholic pom and fantastic marches that accompanied the faithful further elevated Granada in my mind, and it is now preserved in my memory together with the mist from incense, glistening of golden crosses and numerous figures of contorted, suffering Saints.
Then of course, there is a lot of poignance in these processions in which the faithful decide to relive Jesus’s passions for a few hours, accompanied by their families and friends, seeking penance and, ultimately, salvation.
This year, of course, there will be no majestic Semana Santa processions in Granda due to the pandemic and all the suffering it caused to Spain and the rest of the world. It is the first time since the end of the Spanish Civil War that there will be no celebrations, as yet again the real life passions of Granadians have made the need for symbolic recreation of Jesus’s sufferings needless (and in this case, dangerous).
While those more religiously apt, will probably find even deeper meaning in this, but even for me it is symbolic that the harshest battles agains the pandemic in Europe this year, coincided with Lent.
Indeed, some of the greatest outbreaks in Germany happened during the Carnival (the Venice Carnival was of course, cancelled), and hopefully we will see the end of the worst times for Italy and Spain sometime around Easter. Thus this year, the true point of Lent, of reminding us that we need to be prepared to sacrifice daily comforts to help ourselves (as both people and communities) overcome death, despite fear, temptation and pain – materialised in Europe in the harshest way possible.
I hope the worst if over for Spain and that we will all get many opportunities to see Granada’s annual passion processions, but I am sure that after this year they will have even greater resonance.