The cobbled streets were claustrophobically dark and full of threatening, murky doorways. Wrought iron street lamps cast a soft golden glow which only served to create deeper shadows rather than light up my path. A cool breeze racing around the streets added a quiet howl to the scene that sent a shiver down my spine ““ partly because it was cold, but more because the atmosphere was freaking me out a bit. I felt as though I’d wandered into the pages of a Daphne Du Maurier novel.
I hunched my shoulders and hurried along alleys devoid of human form trying to keep my over active imagination at bay. But as I walked the situation took a nosedive when all the street lights were suddenly extinguished and I was plunged into total darkness. The silence was deafening and I held my breath for a few seconds”¦then I heard it; the rhythmic sound of a slow drum beat in the distance. I moved in the direction of the haunting sound then, as I turned a corner, the light from candles held high by gloved hands illuminated a scene which made my heart race. Four hooded figures in billowing white cloaks silently bore down on the spot where I was standing.
I breathed a sigh of relief. Thank goodness, I was just in time to see one of the highlights of La Laguna’s Easter (Semana Santa) celebrations; the highly emotive and completely mesmerising Silent Procession on the evening of Good Friday.
There are two poignant processions in La Laguna on Good Friday when hooded brotherhood after hooded brotherhood parade through La Laguna’s atmospheric old streets. The first, the Magna, takes place during daylight hours from 5pm (better for photography), whilst the Silent Procession leaves the Iglesia de la Concepción under the cover of darkness at 9.30pm.
For anyone who hasn’t previously witnessed Tenerife‘s Easter processions, the first sight of the hooded brotherhoods can be quite disconcerting. It’s impossible not to think of the Ku Klux Clan who hijacked the look and completely corrupted it. Members of Tenerife’s brotherhoods remain anonymous behind conical hats for pious purposes, not cowardly like the clan. Although this unfortunate connection gives the brotherhoods a slightly sinister look, it also helps ramp up the atmosphere a few notches taking it well into slightly unnerving territory. It goes up a few notches more when other brotherhoods in monk’s robes with bare feet chained at the ankles and dragging full sized crucifixes appear on the scene.
Anyone who’s experienced any of Tenerife’s multitudinous fiestas knows that they’re usually the green light for an overdose of fun. Semana Santa is very different; this is a serious and solemn affair. It is the antithesis of the hedonistic excesses of carnaval with which it is intrinsically linked.
The solemn religious nature of Semana Santa’s celebrations might put some people off the idea of travelling to the former capital to witness the Easter processions. However, if that’s the case, think about this:
There might be fiestas which are a lot more fun, but believe me, few will remain etched on the memory for quite as long as the vision of La Laguna’s cloaked brotherhoods silently treading streets as old as the conquest of the island.
Good Friday falls on 2nd April 2010.