The Catholic presence and culture in Granada is very prevalent. There are churches everywhere and, of course, there is the spectacular Cathedral of Granada.
I was lucky enough to arrive in time for a special procession that happens on the final Sunday of September in honor of la Virgen de las Angustias (Our Lady of Sorrows). As a Catholic, this was not the first procession I have seen, but it was by far the most impactful.
I stood with hundreds of other people lining Calle Reyes Catolicos for a chance to see the passing of Our Lady of Sorrows. I could hear tourists behind me asking each other what everyone was waiting to see and I was happy to turn around and explain to them what was happening. The first thing we all heard was the sound of a marching band, which soon enough passed us, accompanied by alter boys and girls carrying candles and a cross. There were three other marching bands that followed behind slowly, each one in time. While the music was beautiful, what really struck me was what was between each of the marching bands.
People had joined the procession starting from the Basilica of Virgen Angustias and more were joining at various stages. These people ranged from children who were being gently pushed along by their parents to teenagers — even the elderly were in on the fun. Each person was in pace with the person in front of them and many carried extraordinarily long, lit, white candles. They would re-light each other’s candles if they blew out and many people on the streets passed them paper to protect their hands from the hot wax dripping down. Some even had rosaries, and I noticed the slight movement of the fingers as they moved from bead to bead and the soft reciting of various prayers. Ultimately, it was not what the people were carrying that caught my attention; it w as the bare feet of people, young and old, hitting the pavement of the street.
None of those walking barefoot were carrying shoes, which means that had either come without them or had given them to someone else to hold while they marched. This simple act made this particular procession hit me harder than any I had ever seen. The Spanish people tend to dress very elegantly and this being a special event meant that everyone was dressed to the nines. While their faith in God is what they all had in common, it was the absence of shoes that made them all equal. The bottoms of their feet were dirty and had bits of gravel pressed into their skin but it did not seem to matter. Each person was in the moment, moving in time, practically swaying to the rhythm of either the marching bands or their own thoughts — and it was beautiful.
The procession would continue until past midnight and I continued to hear the music from my house all through the night. I pictured the swaying of the people and the now barely lit candles, and I could hear shuffling of feet on paved roads all whispering prayers in unity.