While studying abroad in Granada, Spain this semester I have taken advantage of learning about the culture as well as the history of my wonderful city. One of the best ways in which I have taken part in the culture of Granada, is by creating relationships with locals and getting to know the best sites in Granada through them.
One of my favorite intercambios, or language exchanges with a local, happened last week. For Semana Santa or Holy Week, my roommate and our Granadina friend, Almudena, went for tapas and then saw some fantastic Semana Santa processions. I was beyond excited to see the Semana Santa processions, in which volunteers carry heavy floats with statues and artifacts on their backs for numerous hours through the streets. Every time I have seen a procession, I have been left awestruck by the beautiful candles and gold covering the float, the detail of the statues (especially the facial features) as well as the dedication of the people carrying the heavy floats. Needless to say, I wanted the best Semana Santa experience I could have, but didn’t realize how much having a local would help me in achieving that.
Early in the evening, Almudena took us to a local tapas spot where I was encouraged to try a drink very popular in Granada, called Tinto de Verano. Had I been out to eat with just my American roommate, I most likely would have stayed in my comfort zone and drank a Coke and would not have discovered yet another thing I truly love in Granada. Eating with a local made me want to try new types of food and take a risk!
After tapas, we headed out to save a spot to watch the Semana Santa processions. Another great thing about going with a Granadina is that she knew exactly which processions to see and where to see them. Normally, I would have gone to the common area where all of the processions pass through, which would have left me frustrated with the crowd and inability to see well. Instead, Almudena took us Paseo de los Tristes, a beautiful path right under the incredible Alhambra palace. Fortunately, Almudena knew that the Proseción del Silencio was completely unique to Granada since most processions have a band, but this one required complete silence. I felt so fortunate to be able to see a procession unlike all the rest in such a beautiful place. As the procession went by, I was surprised that it was almost completely silent despite the hundreds of people, and I could feel a sense of peace as I meditated on the meaning behind these ‘Holy Week’ processions. Even though I had an idea of what Semana Santa was like beforehand, I’m so thankful Almudena was there to use her knowledge to make my experience of Semana Santa one of my favorite memories in Spain so far.