Things Bicultural Couples Do

Bicultural and/or international couples (in my case, both) have some habits that can seem odd for an outsider. Most of the time, when Mario and I take a trip, we end up speaking a weird hodgepodge of English and Spanish and Spanglish, which confuses the locals who just want to place us in a little box. (Oh, Americans; or Oh, Spaniards.) But no, we’re not so easily categorized or identified.

Mix up traditions

I wear my wedding ring (alianza) on my right hand because I didn’t have the traditional engagement ring and wedding ring match set. I wanted everyone who saw me, in Spain and in the US, to know I was taken, so I figured I’d wear one ring on each finger. Problem solved. Mario, on the other hand (literally), wears his on the other hand, his left. Why? It’s more comfortable. So we mix up traditions. So what?

We also chose to say our vows both in English and in Spanish, because those words in our native languages were and are really important to us.

Oh yeah, and we had two weddings. We’ve decided we could have one every year. There are lots of states, after all.

Code switch

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Zamora, Holy Week, and the Beauty of Silence

Only the thunder of drums and trumpets break the profound silence that invades Castilla y León every spring during Holy Week, the most sacred week in Christendom. This region, along with others, becomes a gathering place where the faithful can experience the passion and resurrection of Christ, as well as enjoy the cultural and gastronomic delights each has to offer. To succinctly describe Holy Week in Zamora is to take on an impossible task, but one could start with three words: passion, ardor, and—yes— …

Silence

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Parades are not known for being silent. They are cacophonous affairs, rife with clashing cymbals, the blasts of trumpets, and the cheers of the bystanders.

Not here, not these procesiones (processions).

During the day, yes, the silence is indeed broken—by music, and choirs, Gregorian chants, even funeral marches compose an extraordinary soundtrack for the most splendid of processions—but soon night falls, and silence once again reigns. Here, silence is a symbol of religious devotion and austerity.

Silencio

Photo from All Posters

La Procesión del Silencio

The Procession of Silence. Even the name inspires awe. Keeping silent is not customary; keeping silent is not easy.

Kneeling in the cathedral atrium, surrounding the image of Cristo de las Injurias, the brothers wait for their oath. The mayor says a short prayer, and the bishop goes on to take the brothers’ oaths, saying:

“Hermanos de la Cofradía del Santísimo Cristo de las Injurias, ¿juráis guardar silencio durante todo el recorrido de esta santa procesión?”

The brothers swear this oath together, vowing to keep silent for the entire route. Some walk barefoot throughout the cobblestoned city streets, but all maintain silence. They march together—slowly, solemnly, dolefully through the streets of Zamora, a town which at times seems to have been transformed into the13th-century, back to a time where Spain did not yet exist. The first documented reference to the celebration of Holy Week goes back to this century, when Zamora’s monasteries and convents organized processions around their cloisters and streets. It was meant to teach the common people, in a powerful way, about the passion, death, and eventual resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Throughout the centuries, Zamora’s Holy Week has maintained its sobriety and solemnity. (In other regions, the festival has been transformed into a rather glamorous affair.) But like Catholicism in Spain, Holy Week is full of contrasts: noise and silence, day and night, joy and sobriety … but this does not take away from the beauty and drama of Holy Week in Zamora.

Still, for many, the most moving experience of the whole week is the singing of Miserere mei Deus. After a two-hour-long procession through the streets of the casco histórico, the street lights are turned off and the only light comes from the red candles the penitents carry. And then the choir begins to sing, the words ringing out into the cold night:

Miserere mei Deus, secundum magnam, misericordiam tuam …

Miserere mei Deus

 

For an enchanting contrast to other Holy Week celebrations, make your way to Zamora for a singular look at the power Catholic traditions still hold in an increasingly secular country.