Easter week has arrived, which means that in all the big towns and small villages around Spain there will be Easter processions and bands marching. It has a special atmosphere and is a great experience. As many other foreigners brought up with American movies like Mississippi Burning, I almost choked on an Easter egg the first time I saw a real Spanish Easter procession.
One of the most striking spectacles of the festival are the Nazareños, or penitents, who walk along with the float, in their tall, pointy hoods and long robes with their faces completely covered, apart from their eyes. The sight of these slow-moving unidentifiable figures in these ghostly, alarming costumes can be a little unsettling due to similarity to the costumes of the Ku Klux Klan.
Despite this, there are no connection whatsoever between the two. In Spain the origin of the hood or cap is at the beginning of the Inquisition, when people who were punished for religious reasons were imposed the requirement to wear a garment of cloth to cover their chest and back. Later also to be used at the Easter processions to be able to mourn in privacy. The last day, Sunday they take off the hood to symbolise that the time of mourning is over. It is believed, that members of the KKK later copied the costume after witnessing a procession.
But still, it is a chilling sight when the Nazarenos slowly move down the street and in sync with the gloomy music.