The streets are filled with the smell of incense, hooded children and hooded adults holding candles march in large groups, and hundreds of men in full robes labour under 2-3 ton thrones that depict various holy figures all under the watch of tens of thousands as these processions wind their way through the streets of Malaga each night until very late.
It is "Semana Santa", the week of events leading up to Easter, where the population of Malaga swells to over 1 million. I was unaware of this when booking the trip a few months ago, and it was... interesting.
Depending on your perspective, the sight of these hooded adults and hooded children, the ominous drums, the elaborate holy figures, and the overall grandiosity of the event is either awe-inspiring or creepy.
The photos don't do the entire spectacle justice as (irrespective of one's religious views) it is pretty impressive to see 200+ men carry these massive creations for 8 hours, in unison and with very small steps. Each man bears about 22kg, or close to 50 pounds).
Enter... Antonio. The Malaga-born Banderas is a huge hero here, and I must have heard his name (often whispered, and with italics) about 58 times from locals and tourists alike this week.
Sightings grew ever more legendary, from his role as a procession bearer (this is true - he apparently does it every year, and often under the throne in the "submarine", away from prying eyes for eight hours as part of his personal pilgrimage, with his share of carrying the throne on his shoulders - even more impressive when you consider he hasn't been able to carry a movie since Zorro... zing!) to evermore mystical sightings, where he lifted trucks to save trapped puppies or bedded thousands of women with his mind.
However, impossibly cheesy though he may be to many North Americans, he is a bona fide star here and by all accounts a good guy.
On the whole, Semana Santa is not a particularly solemn event - the throngs watching it are in a happy mood and not especially reverent. Getting around town during the week, and particularly during the nightly marches, is a huge pain but people do it with typical Spanish manners and good humour.