The team of women rocked rhythmically from foot to foot carrying a 1.5-tonne float topped with a statue of Jesus and Mary on the streets of Granada in southern Spain.
The 50 women supported the weight on wooden ribs under the belly of the float as they inched forward through the city for ten hours on Monday.
A heavy velvet cloth draped over the float left only their white shoes visible to throngs of spectators lining the route.
The parades featuring dozens of people dressed in religious tunics and distinctive pointy hoods have returned this Holy Week after being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic the past two years.
While religious orders started allowing women to carry floats in Spain’s famous Easter processions 30 years ago, female “costaleros” — as float bearers are known — remain a minority who still face resistance.
Women have traditionally formed the back line of the processions, playing the role of mourners dressed in stylish black dresses, embroidered veils and intricately designed hair combs.
Granada’s “Work and Light” brotherhood was among the first to allow women to carry the floats in the 1980s.
At first “it was not accepted, women were talked bad about,” said Pilar del Carpio, a 45-year-old cashier who has been a shrine bearer since she was 13 and is proud to be one of the “pioneers”.
Today only three or four of Granada’s 30 brotherhoods, which stage the processions, include women costaleras.
“Maybe there are people who think it is not normal,” said Maria Auxiliadora Canca, a 40-year driving instructor who directs a team of float bearers in Ronda, another Andalusia city in southern Spain.
“Since our bodies are capable of doing it, and we do it with conviction, I don’t see why there should be a difference.”
But in Seville, which holds Spain’s most spectacular Easter parades, there are no women float bearers even though the city’s archbishop in 2011 issued a decree to put an end to gender-based discrimination in the city’s religious orders.
Opponents claim the task is too physically demanding, “not suitable” for women.
Photo: by Pedro J Pacheco / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.