Saetas, Mantillas and Peinetas
Holy Week: Easter week is made up of a series of symbolic and ritual images that have been constructed over the years. During Holy Week in Spain, and more specifically in Andalusia, one is sure to see a procession featuring a statue or a religious scene on a float carried through the city by between ten and thirty Nazarenos. Parallel to the physically tangible examples of devotion during Holy Week, there are also more intangible performances that are significant in the seven-day cultural event. The Saeta, which is a traditional religious song that resembles Flamenco, is a form of prayer or devotion traditionally sung unaccompanied, stemming from the Jewish religious song believed to date back to the sixteenth century. Typically, the Saetero has a strong, powerful, highly emotional voice and begins his/her song as the float comes to a halt.
Alongside the processions and the Saeta, one is also sure to see the Spanish veil known as the mantilla. The lightweight ornamental mantilla came into use in the warmer regions of Spain towards the end of the sixteenth century. Those made of lace became popular with women in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and are depicted in portraits by Diego Velázquez and Francisco de Goya. In the nineteenth century, Queen Isabella II actively encouraged its use. The practice diminished after her abdication in 1870, and by 1900 the use of the mantilla had become largely limited to formal occasions such as bullfights, Holy Week and weddings.
Some sources say mantillas were originally worn by women from Andalusia, possibly influenced by Muslim women from nearby North Africa. As Spaniards settled in Mexico and South and Central America, they brought their traditional cultural custom of wearing the mantilla to Latin America.
A peineta, similar in appearance to a large comb, is used to hold up a mantilla. This ornamental comb, usually tortoiseshell in colour, originated in the nineteenth century. It consists of a convex body and a series of prongs and is often used in conjunction with the mantilla. It adds an illusion of extra height to the wearer and also holds the hair in place during weddings, processions and dances. It is a standard element of some regional costumes of Valencia and Andalusia.