Published in May 1997 issue of Prospect Magazine
We went to Seville for semana santa. I was filming the first segment of a Channel Four series about gods and remembered the fervently pious parades of the early 1960s. We were living in Fuengirola when it was a dusty little village with 600 inhabitants (today, during the summer, it has a quarter of a million). Semana santa in Malaga was an intimidating celebration. The tronos on which the images of the Virgin and of Jesus were lurchingly carried by their unseen crews were preceded by the moustachioed guardia civil, carrying reversed arms; they might have been at a king’s funeral. Drums beat as if for an auto-da-f?. The hooded celebrants were black with menace and even the flagellants-an elite troop scourging blood from their own backs-seemed to be establishing a capacity for ruthlessness which they might soon visit on others. Franco’s authority was dyarchic with that of the church.
The resurrection was also a vindication of tyranny; “Arriba Espa?a” was, after all, the trademark of the Falange. “Viva la muerte” had been the macabre slogan which so scandalised Unamuno when the old philosopher realised what a vile fraternity he had, until then, endorsed. Even today, in Malaga, the right-wing pietists sing an anthem which proclaims them the “novios de la muerte.” It seems (and I have to hope) that there will never be a single spiritual currency in Europe.