Dolorosa/Virgen de la Esperanza

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By Luci Lizares

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

EVERY Good Friday, the caro of my grandmother Eleuteria Lizares, the Dolorosa, is processioned right after the Santo Entierro. The purpose of our visit in Sevilla, Spain was to visit the image of the Dolorosa, which is most renowned in Europe especially during the Holy Week celebrations.

However, in Sevilla, they refer to the weeping, sorrowing Mother as the Virgen de la Esperanza instead of the Dolorosa. In the Basilica Virgen de la Esperanza in the Macarena district, at the very center of the altar, which is glittering in gold and silver decorations, is the Virgin de la Esperanza. She is clothed in resplendent robes and bejeweled.

There are five glass teardrops running down her cheeks which are permanently there. The Virgen de la Esperanza is also fondly called La Macarena and indeed that popular song, Macarena, is dedicated to her. She is the patroness of Sevilla and many parts of Spain.


Wanting to know more of their Good Friday procession, we discovered that theirs is quite dramatic. As the Virgen de la Esperanza comes out of the portals of the basilica in all her imperial regalia with a golden crown, people shout “Viva la Macarena!”

Like a rock star, she is greeted with much enthusiasm and a high energy of fervor. Some women weep, while men beat their breasts with their fists. The procession starts at midnight and she walks the streets of Seville up to noon. Many shout ‘Guapa” as she passes followed by applause. Her caro is bedecked with candles and flowers in silver vases under a gold embroidered canopy of expensive textiles.

A story about how she is greatly revered occurred in the late 1970s when a fundraising campaign was undertaken among the rich and noble families of Seville for a new outfit for La Macarena. They were able to raise $70,000. The socialist faction, however, protested that this money should go to one of the poorest barrios of Seville where many were unemployed. They were victorious. The intended barrio received the money, however, the Virgen de la Macarena meant more to the recipients than their needs. She is their Queen and Mother. They sponsored another fundraiser and were able to add another $25,000 to the $70,000 they received, and purchased a magnificent new robe for their patroness.

When we entered the Treasury Room of the Basilica, we marveled at the size of the cape of the Virgen de la Esperanza! Plus the embroidery work is so thick. No wonder they needed almost a hundred thousand dollars for a new outfit for the Virgin. If our family decides to have a new one made for our Dolorosa of this magnitude, I can just imagine the cost!

To the Sevillanos, nothing is ever too much for the Blessed Mother who is their Esperanza, their Hope. La Macarena is much more than a statue to be venerated. A Sevillano explains: “She knows all our problems. We confide in her. She is our Hope. That is her name.”

If you look closely at the image of Our Lady of the Macarena, you will notice a bruise on the right cheek. It is said that in one of the Holy Week processions, there was a drunk who was shouting insults at Our Lady and threw a glass bottle causing a bash on her face.

Artists have tried to repair the damage to the cheek but after each restoration, the bruise would reappear. When the man sobered up and realized the dastardly act he committed, he was consumed with repentance. To make amends for his sin, he resolved to walk before the statue each Holy Week with chains on his feet and carrying a cross. Even after his death and until today, his descendants have continued this act of penance. It sounds like intergenerational healing.

Canonical Coronations are granted to devotions which are widespread and intense. On December 20, 1962, the Confraternity of Macarena petitioned Pope John XXIII to grant her a coronation. The Pope answered their appeal. It was the 27th of May 1964, when the Virgen was moved to the Cathedral of Sevilla for a High Pontifical Mass and attended even by the head of state then the dictator, Generalissimo Francisco Franco and members of the royal family. This May 27, 2014, they will be celebrating the 50th year of her coronation and all Sevilla and Spain are preparing to give her a grand celebration.

La Macarena is the patron saint of matadors or bull fighters and a favorite of Spanish gypsies. There is a Seville-born matador named Jose Gomez Ortega “Joselito” who spent a large portion of his fortune to buy four emeralds for her statue which she wears as a brooch. He is considered one of the greatest matadors of all time. Joselito was gored in the bullring at the age of 25 during a competitive bullfight. It is remembered that from the day he died the Virgin Macarena wore black for a month.

Our Dolorosa is the patroness of our family. The pilgrimage to Sevilla enabled us to look at our patroness not merely as a sorrowful, weeping mother but as a mother we can confide to because she knows all our problems and she will strengthens us with hope in times of trouble and distress.

Viva, Dolorosa!!!

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on April 17, 2014.


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