Anyone attending a procession in Murcia for the first time, specially one of the most popular processions, will witness a series of astounding images that have no equal in Spain. A celebration such as the Holy Week only gains personality and difference through the years, and Murcia counts on some Brotherhoods from the Middle Ages: the beginning of the 15th Century, when the plague and famine devastated a population left at random, that turned to faith in order to look for a remedy. In the year 1400, a river of blood started up. That blood dyed the dresses the same red that fiercely covered the body of Christ with pain. Time after that -centuries after that-, with the ups and downs of history, the Brotherhoods multiplied until they reached the splendour and vitality they are so proud of today.
We are talking about 15 Brotherhoods: fifteen associations, each one with thousands of moved processionists that turn into estantes, penitents or musicians responsible for the sound that accompanies and characterises certain parts of the processions -the long sound of the tubas, instruments that are as huge as the groans they produce.
Let's talk about some more figures. During the days of the processions, starting with the Viernes de Dolores -Dolores Friday-, more than 80 groups go through Murcian streets. It is a true open-air religious art exhibition that summarizes almost five centuries of the Murcian imagery's development. Important artist names are Francisco Salzillo, whose mention brings to mind the Baroque, skill, tact, depth and moving beauty, and also Roque López, Domingo Beltrán and Nicolás de Bussy, all of them great sculptors, honourably followed on the essentials by the artists of the present century.
People coming to this city for the first time will be able to verify that Murcian generosity is not just literature but also a real thing, and that it is even present at its processions. The processions have turned something that used to be a necessity into a very peculiar characteristic: people brought some food from the huerta -irrigated areas used for cultivation-, where they lived, to the city, to be prepared for the procession's long route. That is why today, from the swollen bellies of the Nazarenos, all kinds of presents come out. These presents can be fresh broad beans or sweets, pastries or hard-boiled eggs; it is a celebration full of generosity, maybe difficult to understand at first. Despite this, that generosity has much to do with the spirit of these days, when the greatest generosity ever is commemorated: the generosity of offering the own life to the others.