Saturday, 4 April 2015

Popayan

Via an overnight, uninteresting stay in Cali, we arrived in Popayan in time for Colombias Semana Santa festival, or Easter as we know it. Popayan is a popular destination for Catholics to descend upon for the celebration and we were able to experience first hand the lengths the devout go to to pay homage to their Catholic beliefs. Walking round the old town it is easy to see why this is called the 'White City' as the sun glares off whiter than white colonial buildings towering from either side of the roads. 

As with many colonial parts of cities we have been to, most corners and blocks have extravagant churches and Popayan is no different. Including the beautiful cathedral, all the holy temples had shrines to Jesus set up around the inside perimeter. Made from plastic-wax type material, the figurines cast eery shadows around the churches and portrayed pained expressions on their faces. Later on, as we watched the four hour long procession wind through the streets, we realised the shrines were for this exact reason as priests were carrying them, pall-bearer style whilst a crowd of around 10,000 watched on in subdued silence, many holding candles. A live band consisting of both young and old created the mellow soundtrack to the parade, creating a very intense religious experience. Although the faith side of the celebration bypassed me, it was fascinating to see how it brought people of every walk of life together and just how vested their interest in the Catholicism is.