Passover in PopayánMarch 29 in Colombia
Northwards bound we headed from Pasto to Popayán, the white city (la ciudad blanca), a two hour journey by bus. Popayán is considered as one of the most conservative and religious cities in Colombia, so what better time to visit than Easter, or as the Spanish call it, Semana Santa. When we arrived at our accommodation, we realised that the city centre was a twenty or thirty minute walk and that very little existed outside of the gated-community that would be our home for the next two nights.
On our second day, we wandered around the city centre amongst all of the white, colonial-style buildings. Popayán was filled with people walking all over the place, many of whom were on a pilgrimage to the main Cathedral. Tagging along, we made it to the top of the hill, slightly out of breath, to witness a procession along the Stations of the Cross, situated around the church. It was at this point that Little Miss Pottymouth unleashed a tirade of profanities and blasphemous remarks that, if we had been seeking shelter in a church, it would have crumbled into a thousand, million pieces. Fortunately, most people wouldn't have understood much of the tirade other than perhaps the word Jesus and considering it was his day of days it didn't raise any eyebrows.
After our brief religious experience, we headed back into the centre of town in search of the famous el Viernes Santo (Good Friday) procession. We ended up stumbling upon the floats for the parade, housed in a nearby church, but not the actual procession. As we wandered aimlessly, a Police Officer struck up a conversation with us and we queried her about the procession. We didn't quite understand whether the parade was supposed to commence in the day or night. It turns out the procession didn't start until 8pm that night.
As we waited for the procession, in all its glory, another Police Officer began chatting to us, in broken English and we responded in broken Spanish. As we acknowledged that both parties lacked the skill to have a conversation, others listened into the conversation. We're sure the stickybeaks were thinking “oh, how lovely, the Gringos are trying to speak Spanish”. With a few well-wishes from the Police Officer and those eavesdropping, the Police Officer went back to his post and we waited in anticipation for the procession to commence.
The procession was headed by a high-ranking religious figure followed by a number of altar boys and girls, in addition to the military police band, pounding out an eerie and haunting melody and drumbeat. For the first half an hour or so, the procession was entertaining but after two hours we had had enough of the seemingly endless floats depicting the trials and tribulations of Jesus on his death day.
While our Spanish still needs a lot improvement, we found that we were able to have some basic conversations with some of the local police and a guy, Jose, who lived in the same gated-community. We'd been practising our Spanish tongue-twisters almost daily and when we regurgitated the rhyme, Jose confirmed we spoke like a six year child. But compared to four months ago, this was significant progress for us. Unfortunately, we couldn't hang around longer and we had to keep moving to reach our next destination.
Next stop: Cali
For video footage, see: