Saturday, April 07, 2007

Holy Arrivals, Holy Returns

Even now, Spain is a holy country. Today is Sábado Santo, Saturday of Holy Week. Yesterday was Holy Friday. Tomorrow is Easter, the holiest of the holy days in this holy week.

Last Sunday, many Spaniards walked the streets of their cities and towns carrying palms to initiate a week of welcomes for the country’s many saints, penitents, virgins, saviors.

Thirty years ago today, Spain gave a different, ambivalent welcome to a long-banished prodigal. On Sábado Santo in 1977, the Communist Party returned to the Spanish fold, legally recognized after four decades of enforced absence under Franco.

Communism’s official return to Spain heralded nothing so grand as eternal salvation, of course, and it surely distressed many Roman Catholics—then, still, the country’s national religion.

But this is a place where politics and faith have always had an intimate, if sometimes dangerous, relationship. And so it is perhaps fitting that the day marking the return of the “godless” was quickly christened Sábado Santo Rojo—Red Holy Saturday. Rhetorically, at least, Spain has never been much good at turning away a true believer.

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