On Good Friday I decided to watch the Holy Processions that take place in the old capital of La Laguna.
On an unseasonably hot afternoon, I arrived in time to see the first Brotherhood emerge from the Church of La Concepción and was immediately taken aback by the site of their robes which included pointed full-face hoods with eye holes rudely cut into them; the sort of garb usually associated with the Ku-Klux-Klan.
The Holy Processions in La Laguna are not on ‘the tourist trail’ and very few of the island’s annual visitors witness them. As a result there were no crowds and I was able to stand right alongside as each Brotherhood slowly walked past, their robes sometimes in rich hues of blue, red or purple and sometimes in plain white or black. Between them they carried heavy processional crosses, torches ready to be flamed once darkness began to fall and incense burners which they swung from side to side filling the air with a musky scent. The local people who gathered to watch, watched in silence.
Towards the end of the procession, three of the most devout Orders walked barefoot, one of their number carrying a full size crucifix on his shoulder and all of them were chained at the wrists and ankles, the heavy links scraping along the ground behind them, rhythmically breaking the silence.
Worn as a way of concealing their identity in order to avoid praise for their piety and devotion, the robes evoked strong emotion in me; not the anger that rises in me when confronted with images of the Ku-Klux-Klan, but of equal force and opposite nature; I felt a lump in my throat which was hard to dislodge.
Hatred and love – one symbol with the power to evoke them both in equal measure