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Meet the gay stylists playing a key role in Spain’s Holy Week

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Working with rich fabrics, fine lace and flowers, gay stylists have long played a quiet but pivotal role in dressing the Virgin Mary figures carried through the streets of southern Spain during Semana Santa, or Holy Week.But their participation in this week of religious processions which marks the peak of the Catholic calendar comes at a price: silence about their sexual orientation.And it's a compromise that is making them increasingly uncomfortable."Seville's Holy Week is a contemporary festival dating back to the end of the 19th century and the gay community has been involved since the very beginning," says Rafael Caceres, an anthropology expert at Pablo Olavide University in the southern city of Seville.The Andalusian capital is a hive of activity ahead of Holy Week, which starts on Palm Sunday on April 10 and culminates on Easter Day when Christians remember the death and resurrection of Jesus.Many thousands throng the streets to watch life-sized models of the Virgin Mary and Christ carried through their locality by different 'brotherhoods' religious associations.The figures are painstakingly dressed and adorned by volunteers at religious associations.Pedro Pablo Perez Ochavo of Seville's Ichtys Cristians LGBT+H, which lobbies for equality within the Catholic Church, said there were always "florists, embroidery specialists, jewellers, stylists" who worked together on the Virgin Mary figures - and "almost all of them are gay".Carlos Carvento, a 26-year-old dancer and drag queen from Cordoba, said that even within their religious associations, gay men could usually find "a way to fit in", and one in which "their artistic work and persona is valued".Others agreed the Church tended to adopt a laissez-faire attitude,.

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