BAENA, A DIVINE THEATRE
The rhythm of Lent and Easter in Baena is marked by the sound of drumming rising up from the turbas de judíos (“mobs of Jews”), coliblancos and colinegros (“whitetails” and “blacktails”). The celebrations here are based around a series of formal processions, each with its own particular pasos and dramatizations; representations of Gospel episodes reminiscent of autos sacramentales, or Morality plays, which, thanks to tradition, have survived unchanged from the Baroque period right up to modern times. Each of Baena’s religious brotherhoods should be seen as a compendium of different associations and groups which come together in one procession to manifest their devotion to the same figure or mystery. The processions take place in chronological order during the course of the week, starting after Mass on Palm Sunday. The First is La Entrada Triunfal de Jesús en Jerusalén (Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem), involving both black and white tailed Jew figures and representatives from other associations – all of them children.
On Wednesday the usual processions take to the streets led by the Cofradía de Nuestro Padre Jesús del Huerto y San Diego (Brotherhood of Our Father Jesus of Gethsemane and St. James), with their popular trajecillos blancos (“little white suits”). This procession includes a paso depicting El Prendimiento (The Seizing of Christ).<0} After the Easter Service the next day comes the Desfile de Estaciones (Stations of the Cross procession), in which most of the town’s brotherhoods and religious associations unite to visit the Eucharistic Monuments. The custom is for the Jews to move through the churches with their helmet visors pulled down, changing their street marching step for the processional step as a sign of respect. The Roman centuriae also change to the ordinary step and the figures cover their faces with masks. This procession has barely finished when the Cofradía de la Veracruz y Nuestro Padre Jesús del Prendimiento (Brotherhood of the True Cross and Our Father Jesus Seized) sets off, with Christ being seized beneath the towers of Baena Castle at the beginning of the proceedings. Just a couple of hours later, in the early hours of the morning, the procession of El Cristo del Perdon (Christ of Forgiveness) fills the winding streets of the historic Almedina with silence.
The procession of Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno (Our Father Jesus Nazarene) brings to the fore all the religious fervour of the town’s inhabitants. Its ten hours of duration include a number of traditional rituals, offerings, a blessing for the fields, a depiction of the seizing of Christ… culminating in the dramatic representation known as the Sermón del Paseo. On Friday evening, the Cofradía del Dulce Nombre de Jesús, Santo Cristo del Calvario y Soledad de María Santísima (Brotherhood of the Sweet Name of Jesus, Holy Christ of Calvary and Solitude of Most Holy Mary) represents Christ’s burial in a solemn procession. Christ’s Resurrection is celebrated with much rejoicing in Baena, with the Real Archicofradía de Nuestra Señora del Rosario y Santo Cristo Resucitado (Royal Archbrotherhood of Our Lady of the Rosary and Holy Christ Resurrected) filling the streets of the town with light, noise and colour on Easter Sunday.
Many and varied are the people who take part in Baena’s Easter celebrations. The processions are made up of numerous figures wearing very old and very symbolic sui generis costumes.
There are Nazarenes with their distinctive hoods, standard bearers, biblical figures with face masks, tunics and martyrs’ attributes – the Evangelists, King Herod, Pontius Pilate, Judas and the Wandering Jew, sayones (Roman soldiers dressed in the uniform of the Spanish tercios) and the trajecillos blancos (“little white suits”) that today can only be seen on Sundays in the processions of Jesús en el Huerto.
One element unique to Easter in Baena is the presence of its turbas de judíos, or “mobs of Jews”. Organized into groups, these unmistakeable figures wear embroidered red jackets, neck-scarves, and wrought metal helmets with attractive plumes and long tails made of horse hair. The colour of the hair identifies each one as either a coliblanco (whitetail) or a colinegro (blacktail). These Jew figures are so important that even the brotherhoods are identified as “black” or “white” brotherhoods. There are eight groups of coliblancos and eight groups of colinegros. Their role is to accompany the processions, beating their handmade goatskin drums. They also take part in some of the most popular dramatizations that are performed during the processions.
El Evangelista (The Evangelist). A Jew strains to look over the Evangelist’s shoulder to see what he is writing on a tablet. At a given moment, he leaps up. The Evangelist is startled and the two of them jump up and down doing what is known as el baile (“the dance”). This movement is also called asustar (“frightening”) and is performed in all the processions in which the Jews take part.
La venta de Jesús (The betrayal of Jesus). Two Jews approach Judas Iscariot to persuade him to betray Christ. After refusing twice, Judas agrees and runs towards the crowd with coins in his hand.
Prendimiento (The seizing of Christ). Judas stands in front of the mob with a lamp in his hand accompanied by two Jews, or by a soldier. Three times he pretends to search for Jesus, looking from the image of Jesus to the mob and back again. On the last occasion he nervously indicates that he has found Him. At that point, the mob surges forward and seizes Jesus amid a cacophony of drumming.
Sorteo de la túnica. (The drawing of lots for the robe) On the evening of Good Friday, several soldiers cast dice to decide who will keep Christ’s robe.
Abrazo de los Apóstoles. (The Apostles’ embrace). The person representing St. Peter embraces the image of Christ. The other Apostles are standing in line and the embrace is passed on from one to another until it comes to Judas, who pulls away and runs off nervously to seek refuge among the mob of Jews.
Other scenes performed include Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene, the Sermón del Paseo (Reading of the Death Sentence), the Washing of the Apostles’ Feet and the Three Falls.
Echar Cajas (Drumming)
In the early hours of the morning on Holy Wednesday Jew figures start roaming the streets of the town either individually or in groups, incessantly beating their drums. This goes on all day.
A religious service held during Lent in which mobs of Jews, brotherhoods or religious associations parade through the streets to the church in full uniform. The Jews beat their drums.