They pray. They party. That’s what happens in Colombia during Semana Santa, or Holy Week as it translates to English.
It starts on the Wednesday leading up to Easter Sunday, when lots of people leave for their fincas. Thursday and Friday are holidays. There are events on both days, especially Good Friday. Many businesses, especially bars, are closed.
We didn’t mind. My friend Juancho and I left Wednesday evening for his finca in Carmen del Viboral, a city of 45,000 a little more than an hour from Medellín.
Of course we went to see our friend Flaco — if his name sounds familiar, I’ve mentioned him before. He owns a small bar near the town square.
Then we went to other places at nearby Parque Alhambra, places such as Forbidden, Rainforest and Tropical. The night would end with a small gathering at Juancho’s finca, a nice vacation home that sits atop a hill, overlooking the town.
Hanging out with Juancho always means laughs, sometimes from two chants that he has made famous. If he’s entering a room, he’ll start saying, “Juan-cho! Juan-cho! Juan-cho!” until everyone joins in then takes a shot, often Guaro.
The other chant comes from the common phrase, “Ooohhhh yeah!” In Colombia, Juancho changed it to Spanish, with the paisa accent, so when we’re hanging out with him we’ll often say, “Oooooohhhh, sí!”
It was a lot of fun, but by Friday we needed a break. We hung out at the finca the entire day, sleeping for most of it, other than the quick stop that my friend Andres and I made into town, to eat lunch. It was a small place for which the name escapes me; I was in recovery mode.
But I know I had trucha (trout) with salad, french fries and yucca, and it was pretty good, the filling lunch that I needed.
I noticed a lot of other people were having trucha, and at least a few were thinking about it because they asked me if I liked it. I didn’t think much about why this was the case. I ordered trucha because I felt like eating trucha and the price was right.
I did not think, while sitting there half asleep, that it was Good Friday, that fish replaces other meats with your meal.
I’m aware of this — I remember going to Catholic church as a kid. But we didn’t go often because my family was not big on religion.
I didn’t go to church during Semana Santa either but I enjoyed watching people celebrate the event. There were people walking through the streets of Carmen, some carrying candles, others wearing robes, all of them celebrating their spirituality.
A particularly large group passed the restaurant where we ate on Friday. There were so many people, some of them walked through the outdoor tables where we were seated, a sea of them spilling over from the narrow street.
“It seems like almost the whole town is passing by,” Andres said.
“Maybe,” I said.
After a day of resting, everyone left the finca, and Juancho and I returned to Medellín, him to work, me to work and study. We went back on Saturday night for one more night out, this time with a couple more friends joining us.
We hit the same places…first Flaco’s, then Parque Alhambra, finally back to the finca with about 15 people in tow. We sat around drinking and talking, some of us until the sun started coming up.
I finally got to bed around 6 a.m. But I paced myself all night, mixing in a lot of water, so there was no guayabo (hangover) on Easter Sunday.
We went to the town, first to eat then again to walk around, before heading back to Medellín to retire from a festive week.