We’re All Waiting for the First People to Die in Beijing

The EPA categorizes the Air Quality Index (AQI) into six parts: Good (0-50); Moderate (51-100); Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (101-150); Unhealthy (151-200); Very Unhealthy (201-300); and Hazardous (301-500). It’s been hazardous in Xi’an, where I live, since the New Year. Yesterday, the AQI cleared 500. As I write this it’s 605. My throat feels like it’s coated with ash, and I can’t brush my teeth clean enough.

This morning, I started reading a Chinese essay about pollution that was published a little over a week ago. A few hours later, it had been censored from its original website. I dug it up again on a comment board and started to really translate it. And then I figured that if the government’s going after it, I should probably publish it on a US-based site.

The original Chinese text follows my translation. I’m sure there will be other records of the article even if it does end up getting wiped from every Chinese site, but it doesn’t hurt to keep an extra copy here and there.  Thanks to Lu Meichen for cultural info. Massive thanks to Linch Zhang for help translating and preserving linguistic quirks! If any other Chinese speakers or former classmates see more language issues, please let me know.


We’re All Waiting for the First People to Die in Beijing

Li Shanglong

Ten years ago, I heard that a distant relative of mine had gotten cancer, and I asked my father, “What’s cancer?” My father said that cancer is a kind of terminal illness, and there’s no cure–you just wait to die. And then he said, more happily, that there fortunately weren’t many people in our country who got cancer.

Back then, he was right. But these days, who can say they don’t have several close friends and relatives with cancer?

Today, Beijing is once again covered in smog. It used to be that you couldn’t see Mao’s portrait if you stood in front of Tiananmen Square.1 Nowadays, you can’t see Mao if you hold a ¥100 note in front of your very eyes.2 I originally thought that only Beijing was this bad, but I slowly came to realize that our neighboring cities were more or less just as polluted. In Beijing, we wait every day for the wind to come and blow the pollution away so it can hang in other cities. But for the past two days there has been no wind. The odd-even license plate policy is in place.3 Yesterday everyone jeered at it: if you limit our even-numbered cars and the pollution is just as bad as it was before–well, that just shows what a problem we must have with our odd-numbered cars! Today it’s the odd-numbered drivers turn to complain. Once everything else has been limited, they’ll start restricting flatulence.

I don’t dare to imagine my children growing up in this kind of environment. It’s said that Beijing’s children’s hospitals are already bursting with children who can’t stop coughing and adults who can’t stop crying. I’m not even a little surprised. I’ve been in Beijing since 2008, and I cough practically every morning, sometimes to the point of tears. But why haven’t I complained? It’s very simple: look at what happened to Chai Jing.4 Once upon a time she wrote Insight, and now she’s completely out of sight.

Jack Ma5 has said that he actually really likes smog and haze, because the privileged elite get their own specially provided food, their own special milk and water, but they can’t get their own special air.

Even though that’s true, I’m still curious: since they can’t breathe their own special air, why is the pollution getting worse with every new attempt to regulate it?  Many of the large factories around Hebei province have already closed, many employees did not collect a salary even before they were barred from working, we’ve limited the time we can drive our cars–but the pollution is as bad as before, so bad that you can’t see all five fingers on your outstretched hand.

People on the street are gradually becoming numb. Before, everyone would rush to buy PM 2.5 masks, but now you can see that people from all walks of life have stopped wearing them. People riding bicycles look all around, expressionless, and our kuai di6 brothers keep dashing around, hard at work, on their motorcycles. Our food delivery brothers on their electric bikes take big lungfuls of air. In a city this big, there seem to be only two ways to manage smog: wait for the wind to blow, or just rely on ten million people working hard to breathe it in.

Fortunately we’re still in a state-mandated vacation, and on break people can go out of town,7 change their filters, and keep breathing. Suggesting an activity like, “Run away from Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou,” is like everybody actually being able to run away, leave for a few days, and then obediently come back.

In America, if you want to make a car you go to Detroit, if you want to make a movie you go to Los Angeles. In China, sorry, to do anything you have to go to Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou, otherwise you won’t have an opportunity to better yourself. All your friends will come Beijing, and they’ll helplessly say with us, “Well, we have to breathe this pollution, better breathe it and get healthy!”

Now, it’s hard to leave to leave Beijing even if you want to. Because of the pollution, there are huge delays at the airport; if you want to take a train, it’s almost impossible to buy a ticket because Chinese New Year is coming up. Since you can’t run away, you can only learn from Professor Dan8 and try not to breathe in the smog: try your hardest not to go outside, you can’t win against that air. Try your hardest not to let smog enter your house, use air filters. Try your hardest not to let the smog into your lungs. And if none of this helps, then you can only rely on your good spirits for protection, and try your hardest not to let the smog into your heart.

But once you’re facing the attack of a disease, once a terminal illness looms near, we all have no way to breathe, our bodies can’t exist, and the triumph of the spirit has as much use as flatulence.

Now that I’ve written this far, I feel awful. I originally wanted to take a break. But when I look at this dim Beijing, I cannot stop myself writing a couple sentences. I know there are people saying, “Come on, Shanglong, you don’t have to keep writing about this. You should rest. Everyone sees the pollution, and you keep on talking about it. Are you sick?”9

Yes, I am sick. These past two mornings I’ve been unable to stop coughing, and now that I think about it, I’ll get sick sooner or later. The people in this city are all already sick. More of us are getting sicker. What does it matter if a writer announces prematurely that he’s sick?

I keep thinking: why has everyone been so silent, even today? It’s simple, it’s because the pollution still hasn’t directly led to a death. To speak plainly, we’re all waiting for the pollution to make its first ghosts. We are all just expecting not to be the first ones to go. But once these deaths have been blown up in the media, once these cases have been pushed in front of our noses, we’ll discover that we ourselves may not have anything to say, or may not be able to say what we want.

In 2014 the mayor of Beijing said, “Let us lift our heads and look at whether we handle pollution well in 2017.” People complained online about the pollution and asked, can we really live till then? The good part is, we survived till now. The bad part is, we remember, we’ve lifted our heads and looked, and we cannot see. The scary part is, that at this time, this moment we are just trying our hardest not to breathe.

We used to think that good fortune was money, a good name, and a good position. Now we just wish for wind.

Remember the blue sky.


1 Mao’s portrait hangs over the main entrance to Tiananmen Square. It’s one of the most iconic images of modern China and I 100% forgot about it when I first translated this piece.

2 Mao is on all Chinese paper currency worth ¥1 or more.

Policy allowing only cars with certain license plate numbers to drive on certain days, in order to reduce traffic and pollution.

4 Chai Jing (柴静) is a treasure, an extraordinary activist who risked (and basically lost) her career as a news anchor to make Under the Dome (穹顶之下), an investigative documentary about pollution in China. Her autobiography was called Insight.

5Jack Ma (马云) is the chairman of Alibaba Group, and he is not messing around. In 2010 Alibaba started earmarking 0.3% of annual revenue to environmental work, mostly water and air quality projects. He hopes people will remember him as a Tai Chi master rather than the Alibaba guy, which, well, good luck.

6 快递 Kuai di delivery guys are out all day. They’re often stuck behind some horrible old truck from the 1970s that belches death fumes right into their faces.

In China, 外地/wai di (outside place) means basically anywhere that isn’t Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou. “Out of town” is practically the entire country.

8 Professor Dan (丹老师) is a famous Weibo (China’s answer to Twitter) personality.

“Are you sick?” is equivalent to “What’s the matter with you?” or “What are you doing?”

Continue reading

Advertisements

Barcelona

I have resigned myself to a pictureless blog. These places are all heavily photo-documented anyway. Google ’em.

I loved this city and this post will be long.

As soon as I emerged in the center of town from the Barcelona subway, I knew I’d found my favorite place in Spain so far. The air was warm and thick with the smells of late spring: outdoor cooking, fresh leaves, a little bit of diesel, and salt from the seashore.

Will and I met up with his friend Jasper, another 6-footer, a few hours after we’d arrived, and the three of us turned not a few heads walking together through the Spanish streets. Barcelona isn’t quite as twisty as Madrid, but we still managed to go in circles pretty frequently when trying to find dinner.

On the first evening we walked down La Rambla to the waterfront, which reminded me so forcefully of the wharves in Boston that I kept expecting to see the T shuttle ferries pull into the dock. Once we’d had our fill of watching boats come in and out of the harbor, we walked along the beach to an English language movie theater. On our first night we watched Argo; on our second, for a change of pace, we watched G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which I freely admit I enjoyed the most of our party.

Barcelona’s waterfront development has been steady and beautiful. One building we passed had an exterior that looked like a steamship’s boiler room, and artfully careless waterfalls ran down its sides. Tired surfers lounged in green Olmsteadian parks inches from the sandy beach. At the other end of the waterfront from the movie theater, a great green knoll offers a stunning view of the city.

I hadn’t made an effort to see cities from high vantage points during most of my time in Spain. This may sound like a silly thing to say, but I’m used to China, where it’s difficult to enter a building constructed after 1950 and see anything but a skyscraper’s sweeping vista. There, the streets are wide (if tremendously congested). The gaps between skyscrapers lend themselves to fantastic, canyon-like views that make you feel as though the world is simultaneously opening up and swallowing you down.

In Spain the streets are narrow, and the skyscrapers match each other so that even if you do look out a high window, you mostly see another high window staring straight back at you. But from the top of the knoll at the waterfront (that’s where this ramble began, if you recall), you can see all of Barcelona spread out like beneath you. It’s big and, though walkable, sprawling.  The buildings aren’t very big.

But one structure stands out quite distinctly. I pointed to it and asked Will, “What’s that thing that looks like the Black Fortress?”

Jasper looked at me with something like pity and said, “That’s the Sagrada Familia.”

I called this building the Sager Familia in my head until I actually arrived at it the next day on a bike tour (that held not even the dimmest candle to Urban AdvenTours’s bike tours in Boston). Our guide had us stop our bikes in a little park behind the building and then looked up and the concrete monster towering over us.

As you probably know from my previous post, I am not familiar with much Spanish culture. I did not know what Guernica was, I had forgotten everything but the name about El Greco, and I certainly had never heard of Gaudí. But it turns out he is a genius, and also that he designed the cathedral called La Sagrada Familia.

Jaw-droppingly, astoundingly moving. The whole cathedral looks like it has grown up out of the ground like a great gnarled tree all frosted with moss and lichen. Outside is the only naked crucified Christ I’ve ever seen (most paintings give him the dignity of a loincloth). Around him are rough-hewn cubic, desperate mourners. Then, above, there are bright green bird-filled Christmas trees and bulbous towers.

Inside feels like a city grown by devilish Wood Elves. It did not seem holy to me, although I loved it. Leafy hyperbola burst all over the distant vaulted ceilings. The vaults are made up of what look like twisting birch branches.

I can’t express how exquisite the stained glass is. The windows aren’t actual images from scripture. Instead, each window has a single color theme, and differently-shaded shards tesselate a shifting chromatic pattern from bottom to top. The result is a pulsing, fiery energy. Magma seems to intrude the rock of the church, oozing and dribbling down the wall, still molten, jewel-bright. It gleams. It’s stunning. It moves.

Some windows closer to the ceiling are shades of white. These look as though the’ve captured the wing of a powerful angel mid-beat.

I feel like I have seen a number of crucified Christs at this point; I’d venture to say that there’s at least one in every church, and I’ve been to a number of those, plus museums where Jesus features heavily. Clearly I haven’t seen them all–the one outside this cathedral can’t be the only rebelliously nude savior.

Inside La Sagrada Familia is the only image I’ve ever seen that has made me cringe and flinch and feel the nails of the crucifixion. This Jesus’s knees are bent up as though he is trying to relieve the weight in his hands by standing against the cross. And yet his feet seem to slip, too. Even though I didn’t get close enough to see the nails in the statue, I knew that they rip through skin and bone in a way that not even the goriest Catholic paintings have conveyed to me. This is a struggling, agonized Christ, choking, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani,” into his chest.

La Sagrada Familia won’t be finished for at least forty more years. Like all great European cathedrals, its changing architectural design spans centries. Hopefully I’ll be able to go back and see it when it’s finished.

Also on that not-as-good-as-an-Urban-AdvenTours bike tour, we saw the Cascade fountain, another sinisterly bucolic Gaudí masterpiece. Green and grey, and more peaceful than the cathedral, the golden chariot at its very peak, above a wide walkway, gleams even in cloudy weather. Jets of lacy water issue from graceful dragons’ mouths, set so widely apart that the scope and proportions seem too elegant, too graceful, yet too blasé to be in a city.

On our last night in Barcelona, we headed to an excellent faux-biker bar with a Harley suspended by chains over the liquor shelf. Grafitti doused the walls and absinthe shots were 1.5€. I absolutely did not oversee any underage drinking because that would be a morally ambiguous thing to do, and I shun such conundrums.

I rode out of Barcelona on a slow overnight train with flickering fluorescent lights and found myself in the US not twenty-four hours later. A day after that, I was just outside the little village of Woods Hole, feeling as though I’d Apparated by accident.

tl;dr: No one drinks really cheap absinthe, and although Barcelona is phenomenal I shamelessly plug Urban AdvenTours, which is in Boston and bears no relation whatsoever to this post, and whose bike tours are the greatest in the world.

Toledo and Segovia

WordPress is not being helpful vis-a-vis including lots of photos in the posts.  If you want to see any, I recommend clicking on them. Sorry for the formatting.

Toledo and Segovia are both hill cities.  Toledo covers an evenly rounded hilltop and offers equally stunning views of its verdant river valley no matter where you stand.  Getting lost on the way to the town from the train station should be impossible, but Will and I did it with aplomb.  Once inside, we found that Toledo’s streets are particularly twisty.  All of them seem to loop and fold back onto the center cathedral so that if you walk without a map it feels like you’re tracing the edges of a flower’s petals, always returning to the bright center.  The cathedral’s ceilings are splashed all over with vibrant paintings of angels.  In the sacristy there is a wall sculpted from flagstone floor to distant skylit dome with angels in bronze, silver, and gold.

Naturally, there is a prominent statue of Miguel de Cervantes near the city gates.  I lingered by it not because I’ve ever read Don Quixote, but because there is a similar statue on Peking University’s campus.  The 1989 protests that culminated in Liu Si, or Tiananmen Square, began with a small group of students leading a rally at that statue.

If you are like me and you walk through various historical buildings in Toledo, you might notice one or two paintings attributed to a gentleman named El Greco and think the name is somewhat familiar.  Then as you explore more and more of the city, you might begin to say to yourself, “This gentleman seems somewhat prolific.”  Hopefully you will remember earlier than me that El Greco is rather famous and more than prolific, which explains why almost every single oil painting I saw in Toledo (and there were at least seventy five) appeared to be his work.  (You might also feel abashed and apologize to your uncle, a historian of fourteenth and fifteenth century Spanish art, who has definitely told you a lot about El Greco.)

Segovia’s hill slopes gently down on one side and falls in a steep cliff on the other.  Along the first side spreads the Aqueducto Romano; at the top of the second stands the Alcàzar.

Before I continue I must explain something about my elementary school education.  In second grade I worked with a boy named Ned Pappin, who at the time spotted UFOs with regularity and who took my whole class in a stretch Hummer limo to see Chicken Run, on a project about Segovia’s Alcázar.  We built a model.  I still have it.  It is a cardboard box, a cardboard paper towel roll, both painted a bland yellow.  There is a scraggly “turret” made of black construction paper at the top of the paper towel tower.

When I was in third grade I did a written report on the Segovia Aqueduct, a Roman structure that is still in almost perfect condition today (though it no longer functions as an aqueduct).  This was the first report for which I used a plastic report cover.  I was very proud.

The real aqueduct has the simple majesty I associate with the Great Wall of China (though, of course, on a smaller scale).  When you stand at its base and look up, it breaks the sky into even blue pieces.  Its mortarless stones are rounded with age.  In the center of its highest arch is a careful white marble statue of the Patroness of Segovia, la Virgen de la Fuencisla.

We were in Segovia for Easter, so there were jubilant Semana Santa processions.  The marchers had uncovered faces and dressed in bright blue.  Excellent trumpet music blasted through the streets.

Before we went to see the Alcázar, Will and I hiked down the steep side of the hill and wandered along another swift river that had swollen in the spring rains and now caught itself around the skinny trunks of budding trees.  We walked up another ridge to see the Alcázar, Segovia’s cathedral, and a clock tower crowning the city.  It darkened and began to rain while we walked, and even though suburbs and pueblos began about a mile from where we were it seemed like the edge of the world.  Behind the city rose snow-capped peaks.

Then we went to the Alcázar, and I jumped around like an eight-year-old.  I don’t have much more to tell about it.  It was an old castle and I loved it.  The rest would just be words.

tl;dr: Spain is pretty and I was pretty cool in elementary school.

IMG_0755

Toledo

IMG_0754

Toledo

IMG_0757

Water mill downriver of Toledo

IMG_0760

Main entrance to Toledo. (We did not use this entrance.)

IMG_0761

Not the right way to enter Toledo. (Or, how Will and I entered Toledo.)

IMG_0762

Statue of Cervantes. Love to Beijing.

IMG_0764

Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo, Toledo’s center of gravity.

IMG_0765

View of the valley

IMG_0768

I don’t know how to take pictures of cathedrals.

IMG_0772

The phenomenal ceiling mural in the cathedral.

IMG_0775

I can’t do justice to how vast this building is.

IMG_0778

View from the hostel window. Europe is better.

IMG_0779

The other way out the hostel. Europe is a lot better.

IMG_0781

Will: unamused at our high school’s mascot, which, naturally, is two little boys suckling at a wolf’s teat.

IMG_0782

Segovia Aqueduct. It’s the coolest.

IMG_0783

View of the hills around Segovia

IMG_0785

A particularly photogenic alley in Segovia.

IMG_0788

Easter procession

IMG_0790

Virgin Mary float

IMG_0795

We set out on a hike!

IMG_0796

There is a beautiful river

IMG_0816

A dream of spring. (ASOIAF 4lyfe.)

IMG_0823

Everyone be glad I don’t use Instagram.

IMG_0801

Beneath the city.


IMG_0807

Segovian Skyline

IMG_0814

Another shot of it.

IMG_0812

And, finally, the Alcázar.

Zaragoza and Madrid

Will whisked me across northeastern Spain for two weeks.  We spent most of the first one in Zaragoza watching the faceless marchers pace through the streets with their crosses and candles.  After that we went to Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, and Barcelona.  To keep the posts a moderately manageable length, and to disguise my own propensity to ramble, I will break up the journey into three posts.

Zaragoza’s old World Expo grounds are actually quite beautiful.  I can’t imagine Shanghai’s bearing up that well after five or ten years.  There is an excellent sculpture by Jaume Plensa, who did “Alchemist” (outside the Stratton Student Center of MIT).  There is also a bridge that looks peculiarly like an orchid.

Will showed me all his favorite spots in Zaragoza and thoroughly impressed me with his Spanish.  His host family were naturally very patient with me and they thought that my height was almost as hilarious as his.

Will and I took the smooth AVE train at a rip-roaring 300km/hr into Madrid on Thursday night.

Madrid was not my favorite city, although it had charm and a wonderful central park and a gorgeous, simple, colorful modern cathedral.  Also, the churros were divine. I have no regrets regarding the two orders of churros we got when neither Will nor I had the money to pay for them or the subsequent run through the rainy winding streets back to get my heavy thick coins from our hostel, just a touch of shame chasing me along.

The Reina Sofia is by far my favorite place in Madrid, which may surprise those of you who have had to drag me through a museum after my half-hour allotment for interest in art was used up.  But I found my interest caught and held tightly by the bright oil paintings in the Reina Sofia.  In fact, I went twice in one day.  I stared at Guernica for fifteen minutes and it wasn’t nearly enough, but I’m very tall and I can only stand in one place at an art museum for so long.  Will and I found the room full of Salvador Dali (and other surrealists) and just stood there gaping.  It was all art that you didn’t have to be extremely self-aware to understand.  You just looked and enjoyed.

Almudena Cathedral Madrid

Almudena Cathedral, Madrid

Moonrise over the Royal Palace of Madrid

Moonrise over the Royal Palace of Madrid

IMG_0730

Monument to Alfonso XII in Buen Retiro park, Madrid. You go, Alfonso.

Monument to Alfonso XII in Buen Retiro park, Madrid. You go, Alfonso.

IMG_0842 IMG_0841

Palacio de Cristal in Buen Retiro park

Palacio de Cristal in Buen Retiro park

Will approves.

Will approves.

Fountain of the Falling Angel, Buen Retiro park

Fountain of the Falling Angel, Buen Retiro park

tl;dr: Will showed me around Zaragoza and Madrid and I found art I like.  Churros are delicious.

Semana Santa

My brother Will has been living in Zaragoza, Spain for the past seven months.  Zaragoza is a middling-sized city, but it is bigger than Boston.  Seven hundred thousand people live there, and in 2010 it hosted a World Expo.

I arrived in Zaragoza the evening of March 24th.  It was Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week or Semana Santa.  Holy Week is that last week of Lent, and it is supposed to coincide with Passover but I don’t think it always does because religions can’t agree on anything.  At any rate, Jesus came to Jerusalem from Bethany on Palm Sunday, which is so named because there were excited children waving palms in front of him as he rode a donkey down the road.

This began what I can only assume was the worst week in Jesus’s life, because by Friday he had been condemned to death and nailed onto a cross.  Maundy Thursday (Jueves Santos) is the night of the Last Supper, after which Seder Judas betrayed Jesus and so did Peter and the other disciples proved generally unhelpful, resulting in the crucifixion that I have seen painted and sculpted and carved five hundred times, if not more, in the past week.

Catholic churches are big into the crucifixion.  For instance, this was the admission ticket to a church in Zaragoza.

Thank you for your visit!

Thank you for your visit!

In Spain, the faithful celebrate Semana Santa with processions on each of the holy days: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter.  On Palm Sunday the processions are silent.  This changes as the week progresses.

When you march in a Semana Santa procession you wear a long shapeless robe and an opaque veil with round eye-holes.  Many people wear a tall, pointed hat the same color as the veil.  From the back, you look like a wizard in this outfit.  Unfortunately the Ku Klux Klan appropriated this costume to wear during their general hideous goings-on, so from the front, at least to an American, you look pretty sinister.

But I suspect the veils are unsettling no matter where you’re from.  The costume gives the entire procession an insular, inhuman feeling.  Whereas the parades I’m used to are performed for the benefit of an audience, these processions feel divorced from place and time, and from the people who watch them.

On Palm Sunday I saw my first procession.

Everyone was dressed in black.  Gold chains hung beneath the veils.  About fifty people, halfway through the procession, carried a float of Christ on their shoulders.  The procession moved painstakingly slowly so that these people could drop the float to waist-level every so often.  A crowd of onlookers followed the procession on the sidewalk.

On Thursday, while Will and I were waiting for a bus that never did come, we heard drums slowly approaching.  They beat out a ceaseless rhythm, simple and severe.  Eventually, a line of walkers emerged from a narrow cobbled alley right by the bus stop.  Dressed in purple from head to toe, they moved slowly and silently, without faces, across an intersection and into another narrow little street.  They walked two abreast, and they issued endlessly from the mouth of the alley before vanishing into the next alley.

Finally, the drummers came into view.  They, too, wore pointed purple hats and purple veils; with red drumsticks in their gloved hands, they beat snare and bass drums.  Then they, too, passed into the second alley, the drums echoing all through the streets.

This procession, along with all the others I saw that day, featured two floats, one of the Virgin Mary and one of Jesus Christ bearing his own cross (or tied to a column).  Some of the floats were pulled on wheels so the processions could move faster; others were carried, and each time the bearers took a break a priest would come and bless them.  Each church had its own procession with different colored floats and costumes.

No matter where I was in the city, I could hear drums.  In the afternoon I sat across the river from Pilar, the central plaza in Zaragoza whose focal point is a massive church bursting with domes and turrets.  I read my book on a bench that had been doused with swastikas but now sat innocent and mellow in the sun; through the fresh budding branches of a bright tree I could see all the church’s domes, tiled in concentric diamonds of white, green, blue, and yellow.  The river had spilled over its banks and now it raced past thin tree trunks, bringing with it the heady deep smell of sediment and growth.  Pilar clanged out the quarter hours with its ancient bells and drumbeats rolled across the water.  Their steady, tireless rhythm was faceless and persistent as the people who beat them.

All day long the drums sounded through the city.  All day long the processions filed through the streets, dragging Christ and his cross behind them.

The next day, Good Friday, Will and I woke up in Madrid.  The processions here were longer and louder, and we got up closer to the floats than we had in Zaragoza.  The people bearing these floats looked like they had just pulled a 5k and been told as a surprise that they now had to carry their boats another five kilometers.  Their faces (bare) were screwed up and silent.  The veiled walkers around them did not turn their heads to see the float.  That day, in addition to drums, there were brass and wind ensembles playing dirges.  Good Friday commemorates the beginning of the mystery of faith: Christ has died.  These processions are burial marches.

Easter’s processions are bright and loud.  There are no hoods or veils.  The music is victorious.  Jesus no longer bears his cross.  He has emerged from his tomb in the second part of the mystery of faith: Christ is risen.

tl;dr: it’s not a KKK rally, it’s Holy Week!  Also, I have seen a lot of dead Jesuses this week.

(photos forthcoming.)