Posted by: puebloman | April 12, 2009

Gimme that old time religion

Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Alois Ratzinger known by those who dislike him as “the Rat”, will not be seen in picture or effigy in the shops or business premises of our villages. This marks rural Spaniards as strongly different from Catholics of the Irish or Italian persuasion who positively smother their enterprises with Popish ephemera. In  Ireland and Italy photos of the holy father are “de rigeur” in every establishment, but in Spain? “No!” I don’t know why this should be so.

It can’t be because of the Holy Father’s odd attitude to AIDS or his sympathy for fascists, so I guess it’s just that Spaniards distrust authority at a distance.  Andalucians find the authority of Madrid pretty distant, let alone the authority of Rome.

On the other hand no village shop would dream of opening without a version of the crucified Jesus or the interceding Madonna on the wall, or more usually, of the local saint – San Roque for Cutar, or Santo Christo del Bande Verde for Almachar. These gods, nature deities reinvented as versions of Jesus or Mary, are  particular to the pueblo, and are part of that community of gods who preside over the fortune of each village. Could it be that Spanish villagers are superstitious rather than religious? Could these versions of Jesus, Mary and the Saints hark back to the Roman and Greek societies of nature Gods?

Today is holy Saturday. Tomorrow will be Easter Sunday. In Cutar the village square is being prepared for a fiesta. The square is covered in earth moulded in ridges.  Into the ridges are stuck carrots, turnips, cabbages and other vegetables and at the the head is placed a figure of the Christ child. Libations of wine are poured onto the earth. The villagers dance. Vegetables from local plots are sold for fundraising purposes. The whole event is staged in the hope and trust that God will smile upon the vegetable raising activities of local people. This religious activity tries to maximise the chance that the people will eat. It is powerful sympathetic magic that significantly predates the time when Jesus was no more than a twinkle in his father’s eye.

Somewhere or other, somewhere else, Christ is apparently rising from the dead . . . .

Baby jesus of the fruit and veg

Baby jesus of the fruit and veg



  1. John, I am stunned! You live so close to Yunquera (also a very agricultural area), but our Semana Santa is nothing like that! How very odd!

    They do do the religious pictures in all the shops/bars here, though. Also they put Jesus over the marital bed, but I’m not sure what that signifies! LOL


    • Hi Anne
      I’ve missed you! We have friends here and frenetic rentals so I can’t pay proper attention to this! This ceremony is a fundraising operation. You (we) pay 20€ for bags of vegetables that we don’t need because we grow our own. I suspect that they are bought from the market in Velez and aren’t as good as ours. The villagers play and dance “verdiales”, which is the name of the fiesta, the name of the local folk and dance music and also the name of the green olive oil special to our area. Of course I mystify the day somewhat in the certain knowledge that only you will read my post! I bet there are no pictures of the Pope in your area?


  2. No,no pics of the Pope here! We stick with Jesus and his mum, thank you very much!

    Hey, I’ve saved you some Thai chili pepper seeds, would you like them, and if so, need your postal address! I love your blog entries, by the way.

    My first cauli is double my fist size, but we only have one so far! All potatoes up. Greenhouse seeds going in soon. How about you? You are waaaaayyyy ahead of me as to when you can plant!


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