For the Spanish version of this post, have a look at: Episode 35B Para más irnri in Spanish.
Easter is over and I’m happy to say that the weather was pretty good in Spain – I don’t know if you remember that in the introduction to the last episode I mentioned that lately it always seemed to rain during Semana Santa (Easter), which meant that many people who had been anticipating for months taking part in the procesiones, couldn’t.
But this year it was different. The sun was shining and lots of procesiones took place, some of which were shown on TV. I have to say that I still find them quite spooky. Before I tell you why, I just wanted to mention that didn’t find any royalty-free photos that I thought I could use on the blog, so instead I’ve given you a link so you can have a look at what the procesiones look like.
Capuchinos – the scary stuff
The capuchinos represent the penitents and they belong to the cofradía, which loosely speaking, is a group of people sharing religious beliefs. They wear a cone-shaped hood similar in shape to those we associate with the Ku Klux Klan, only they tend to be of darker colours, like purple of black, or green.
This hat, called capuchón or capirote, was imposed on those people who had been detained for religious motives – this dates all the way back to Inquisition times.
I have memories, from many years ago, of the capuchinos throwing sweets to the kids in the crowds watching the procesiones – this doesn’t happen now, of course, not sure if because of health and safety or because it’s just not appropriate to be doing that in such a solemn occasion.
Back to more recent times, watching the procesión on TV that was taking place in Avila, I noticed a new kind of uniform or costume. Some people were wearing these hoods that had no shape – and I hope nobody thinks that I’m being blasphemous, but it reminded me of those Halloween films where a kid has a really bad ghost costume made with a sheet. And especially because these hoods were indeed white – all they had were two large holes cut out in the face for the eyes. Here is the link again, so that you can see what I mean.
By the way, as an aside, in carrying out research for this post, I came across a website in Spanish that you might want to check out. It’s called Errores Historicos and I found an interesting article saying that Shakespeare and Cervantes did not in fact die on the same day, but ten days apart. And this would have to do with Britain adopting the Gregorian calendar a bit later than Spain. Interesting…
Back to Semana Santa. So I was watching this procession on TV and I saw that on the base of the crucifix with Christ, was the word INRI.
Ah, that’s where it comes from: Para más inri.
Right, that will be the focus of the next Discovering Spanish episode. On top of that, my mother mentioned how beautiful the cirios were – ah, another lovely phrase – se va a montar un cirio.
And finally, as I’ve gone down a little bit of a religious note, if only for inspiration, how about this one that my voiceover friends came up with during one of our sessions: a un burro le hacian Obispo y lloraba.
Para más inriSo as I was saying in the introduction, it was seeing the word INRI on the base of the statue of Jesus in a procession that inspired me to write this post. I didn’t have a religious education, so I have to admit I lack a lot of knowledge around religious matters, which often are part of popular culture. So I didn’t know that INRI stands in Latin for IESVS NAZARENVS REX IVDAEORVM, which means Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.
This was the caption that the Roman soldiers who cruxified Jesus wrote on the cross, under Pilates’ orders. They did this ironically of course, as they actually denied him this title.
So, the expression para más inri, means, something like “increasing the joke, or the mockery, or the piss-take” or sometimes, something along the lines of “and if that wasn’t enough”. Inri actually means “insult” or “joke” as defined by the RAE. And in looking up this definition, I came across a new word, new for me: escarnio. Which also means “mockery”, “ridicule”.
Se va a montar un cirio
Next up, the cirios, which are the long candles carried in the procesiones. One of them, the cirio pascual is larger and thicker than the rest. It will also have a cross on it in some shape or form, and it’s left at the altar in the churches on the evening before Easter Sunday, to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus.
But cirio also means “commotion”, “racket”, “row” and so the expression se va a montar un cirio, means there’s trouble brewing.
(If you speak Spanish and are not easily offended, check out this forum entry in the Cervantes.es website.)
So, while in the middle of these religion connected expressions, I looked at my list of phrases I’m planning to tackle in this podcast and spotted another slightly connected to religion:
A un burro le hacian Obispo y lloraba
This means literally “A donkey was being made bishop, and he was crying”, which comes to mean something like “don’t complain when things are going well for you, especially if you don’t deserve it”, or “don’t complain when things go better than they should, even though you lack some kind of talent”.It turns out there are loads of phrases and proverbs in Spanish including the word burro, which is such a rural animal, and hence that’s probably why he’s part of colloquial language.
The poor animal also has a reputation in more than one language of not being very bright, so you can see how he become the centre of many an expression, including of course, Qué burro eres.
If you want to check out a list of phrases including the word burro, although without their meaning, have a look at http://www.ganaderialasbellotas.com/1320.html
And of course, we can’t ignore the most famous donkey in Spain: Platero, from Platero y Yo by Juan Ramón Jimenez, which I can’t really go into much detail about because I haven’t read it. It’s probably quite beautiful but I’ve never really been drawn to it.
There is the another donkey that’s also really popular amongst children: the donkey with the headache.
A mi burro, a mi burro, le duele la cabeza…
For a very modern version of this song, check out the Youtube video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKkrMgGzN7E I’ll embed it in the show notes. The song is about a donkey who basically, is ill. At first, le duele la cabeza, then his orejas hurt, then his garganta… and depending on which version you know, the doctor gives him a different remedy – from asking him to stiffen his ears so that they don’t hurt, to giving him a tie for his throat ache.
In looking for the origins of the phrase A un burro le hacian Obispo y lloraba, (before I went down the internet rabbit hole and ended up in Youtube) – while looking for the origins of the phrase, or its use, or just some information on it to pass onto you, I came across a website which pinpoints the origin of some phrases originated in the province of Valladolid. It looks like this phrase comes from Melgar de Abajo. (abajo meaning below) (there are some towns where you have something de arriba or something de abajo.) In researching this town, I found another article about Semana Santa, this time about the town of Cigales, where there’s a lot of wine, it’s actually a denominación de origen for some Castillian wines.
Just a note here to say that Valladolid is supposed to be quite a conservative area of Spain, and I think we did talk about this in a past episode with Paul Murphy. So, this article I found covers the recent Semana Santa in Cigales, including the washing of the feet, which commemorates the washing of the Apostles’ feet by Jesus as a sign of humility. Here’s the article:
So as you can see, in going from a phrase directly related to the procesiones, going through the double meaning of the word cirio and ending up with a donkey who became a bishop, we’ve ended up where we started, in the middle of the Easter celebrations.
If you enjoyed this post, subscribe to the Spain Uncovered Podcast via. To subscribe via Stitcher, see the sidebar.