I really do have an excuse of why it’s taking me so long to catch up with my posts. I have been doing a lot of adventuring around Spain. First it began with a weekend in the Sierra Nevada attempting to ski. It was a fun weekend of REAL (on a real mountain, not the little hills in Minnesota) skiing, but honestly it just fortified that I am not a fan of any winter sport. It was super cool to hear the stories of my friends who could actually ski and snowboard and went to the tops of the slopes to where you can see Africa, Malaga, and the Mediterranean Sea.
After my weekend of meatballs and attempts to speak terrible Swedish, it was time to celebrate drinking and eating too much before Lent started. So what did that mean? Only the two craziest weeks that Spain awaits for…CARNIVAL. Everyone has heard of Carnival because of the famous celebrations in Rio. However, Spain also makes an effort to celebrate as well. Let’s be honest, any excuse to eat, drink, dance, and sing is enough for a Spaniard to be out in the street in a ridiculous costume. But many of us don’t know the history behind why Spain celebrates Carnival. Of course the Spaniards got their idea of Carnival from the Italians back all the waayyy back in the 15th century. There are documentations from the 16th century stating the terrible behavior during the time of Carnival. There are also records of unsuccessful attempts to shut down carnival. The Church went from trying to change the dates of Easter, to banning alcohol in the streets, to finally just joining the effort and creating a festival of singing. So in Southern Spain it Carnival is more well-known for the singing troupes that create little shows about the lives of Spaniards during the current times. Many times these songs are about social problems, political problems, and even poking fun at the Spanish government. During the regime of Franco, these festivals were banned, but were later brought back due to a tragic firearm warehouse explosion. Cadiz is one of the most famous cities for their celebrations. Armed with wine, beer, sandwiches, and our dancing shoes, my friends and I join the tour group Malaga South Experiences for their Carnival party. How childish of us to think we would actually survive this night in one piece. Basically we arrived to Cadiz, grabbed our drinks and umbrellas (it rained a lot that night), and headed out for the biggest street party ever. Then at 6 AM we all struggled back to the bus to Malaga. I am not lying when I said I had a two day hangover.
Then I pulled off the biggest surprise ever, and went home to surprise my mom and most of my friends. After a week and half of fun (it’s so much more fun not to have to be working while back home!), I headed back to Spain for more adventures: LAS FALLAS EN VALENCIA! What could this magical festival be? Well, the people of Valencia build these MAGNIFICENT statues of various aspects of life, and then burn the loser ones. Basically it’s a giant bonfire/fireworks show for two weeks. My question is how did it get to be so big? It really isn’t well known how this celebration started, many believe it has to do with the Spring Equinox during the Middle Ages. The people would burn their left over candles, wood, and broken artifacts that they had saved for winter. More specifically, Valencian carpenters used planks of wood called parots to hang their candles on during the winter, so these were burned. Over time the church intervened and incorporated the holiday for Saint Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. Neighborhoods would gather to decorate the parots as someone recognizable in their neighborhood. Children would go door to door collecting materials, and when the parot was dressed they would burn it. These were the first ninots…which I will explain more later. Later, the neighborhood would parade their parots through the town, which is where the current tradition of parading the smaller parts, ninots, before securing them on the main falla. As time continued, these ninots and fallas became more and more satirical and represented past events of the year. It was only during the Spanish Civil War that there was some censorship from the dictatorship of Franco. Don’t worry, today the satirical-ness of the fallas has been fully restored…as you can see below.
What does one do in Valencia the first weekend? Wellllll first you gather your 15 closest friends and rent an apartment for 8 people, road trip it up to Valencia, and party all night and eat away your hangover with delicious paella during the day. We made sure to catch La Mascletà, which is basically a fireworks show during the day, but it’s all about the reverberations hitting your body and the sounds of the fireworks. Pretty trippy hun? I’m not going to lie, it was pretty awesome. We also searched high and low (some of our group became super dedicated) for some true Valencian paella.
We also did our own walking tour to catch as many fallas as we could! Unfortunately, we didn’t seem to find the winning falla that wasn’t burned…Remember all the losing fallas are burned on the last night of the celebration.
Then, if it couldn’t get any bigger, Semana Santa had arrived. Now, I have been living in Malaga for almost two years, and I have managed to miss the craziness of this week by living in Torremolinos. So honestly, I had NO IDEA what I was getting myself into by staying for part of the week. Now this isn’t my first rodeo with the pasos of Semana Santa, click here to read my post about this week in my pueblo, Bollullos Del Condado, where I explain the basics of this week long celebration. I’m not lying when I say that Malaga was buzzing with excitement…I was just anxious about my possible encounter with Antonio Banderas. Yes, that wasn’t a mistake, THE Antonio Banderas comes back to his hometown to carry the tronos of his hermandad. I have been told by many malagueños that he is super friendly…which only made me more giddy to run into him.
One big difference between the pasos I saw in Sevilla and Bollullos and here in Malaga is that the people of the hermandad carry the trono on the outside. They aren’t underneath it. I also learned that here in Malaga there is always a Cristo, a Christ, and a Virgen, or the Virgin that are carried in one paso. I was impressed with how genuinely happy everyone looked in the procession. The men (sadly its only men I saw…) carry the Christ or the Virgin were so proud to be spending 6-8 hours baring the weight of the giant trono. I guess that is what true passion is for some people? It was also amazing to see the reaction of the crowds to the tronos that passed by. In my neighborhood, a few processions passed through. Even at midnight after 7 hours of walking, people were still crying out “Guapa!” and ringing bells for the tronos.
I also learned that many of the tronos are newer, more modern designs because many of the old ones were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. One city outside of Malaga that is lucky that their tronos weren’t destroyed is Antequerra. Its home of the famous park, El Torcal. They are also famous for their pasos that include running up a giant hill to the temple they are housed in. It seems that this tradition comes from the custom of blessing the fertile lowlands –which, at the time, were the main source for the population’s wealth- from the top of the town’s hills. Or maybe the people of Antequerra really like a challenge. I also experienced pueblo Semana Santa in Dalías, Almería.
I did enjoy seeing the amazing processions that Malaga had to offer…however I didn’t enjoy the crowds, or the fact that the center of Malaga basically shut down for the whole week. Again, like my other post is titled “Surviving Semana Santa as a Lutheran,” really is true to its word. I’m not super religious, and yes I find the passion and beauty of Semana Santa amazing, I can’t handle more than one day of it. This isn’t the end of my adventures in Spain, up next is the Patios of Cordoba…but first Dublin! HASTA LUEGO!