Penitents, pedophiles and politicos: Holy Week in Spain

I've committed myself to writing a weekly essay on Spain, and now the week is almost up. (In Spanish calendars, the week starts on Monday, so today is the last day.) This week has been holy week, Spain's great festivity of suffering, and it has been mostly occupied with penitents and pedophiles.

You can see some of the penitentes here. In towns across Spain, guys get dressed up in robes and the conical headgear and masks of the condemned sinners of the Inquisition, supposedly to show that they are repentant of their own sins, and parade in mock solemnity. They look so spooky that, when the Ku Klux Klan was looking for ways to scare people, they imitated the costume.  Every town does it a little differently. In some places they beat drums, in others they blow horns, in most they just march and sway ponderously in processions before the heavy litters, or tronos, of the virgin or the crucified Jesus or both.

I'm not sure why they do this -- if you ask them, they usually just refer to "tradition," as though condemned by inertia to keep doing something they don't really understand. Most of them, at least the ones I've talked to, don't have anything very serious to repent. Meanwhile the Church's pedophiles, and the bishops who protected them, remain mostly unrepentant, though greatly embarrassed that their secret has got out.

But enough about holy week. We can look instead at the unrepentant Partido Popular, whose greater sins have also been revealed in these past weeks. Not just Jaume Matas, until recently the PP's president of Baleares, was stealing millions. Back on the mainland, in Valencia, Madrid and even Galicia, the party was financing itself by selling favors to business interests, collecting the cash as "black money" -- under the table, unaccounted for, illegal. But are they even sorry?

One of the more incongruous aspects of the Holy Week processions is the eagerness of politicians to participate in them. But if they march in full penitente regalia, you might not recognize them. So here in Carboneras, the Socialist Party mayor and councilmen & women march behind the trono unmasked and unrobed, bestowing blessings and implicit appeals for votes with a smile and a wave. What would Pablo Iglesias, that old Marxist and founder of the Socialist Party, say?