Best known among Spain’s folkloristic traditions are certainly Flamenco and bullfights. You will find bullfights indeed throughout the country, the most popular event perhaps being the “Running of Bulls” during the Sanfermines in Pamplona. But bullfights are part and parcel of any Fiesta.
Flamenco, on the other hand, is the musical tradition in the country’s south, in particular in Andalusia. That is where you have to move to see and listen first rate dancing and guitar playing. In April takes place Feria de Abril, in Seville, an entire week of singing and dancing and trying that great Sherry wine, those delicious tasty snacks called “Tapas” and more Sherry wine … and if you like this sort of things you REALLY should not miss that event.
If you can arrange it (and find a hotel room) better arrive to Seville already two weeks before Feria, and see this city’s other outstanding event: Semana Santa, Easter week, with its world-famous processions.
Another most popular event of religious origin is El Rocio, a traditional pilgimship to the village El Rocio in the province of Huelva, in May. Thispilgrimship anyhow is not too solemn and serious, Flamenco and wine being indispensable components. Follow the thousands who each year travel there and have yourself a ball.
Another outstanding Fiesta are “Las Fallas de San José” in Valencia, in March, when all the city becomes the scenery of an enormous party with lots of good mood and excellent fireworks. Next to Valencia there is the little town Buñol which hosts each year on the last Wednesday of August La Tomatina, the world’s largest tomato fight. It is unclear why the town’s inhabitants started over 50 years ago the tradition of throwing mature tomatoes at each other, but today the event attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world.
A wild week can also be spent in San Sebastian during February, when La Tamburrada takes place.
Madrid has its Fiesta, “San Isidro”, in May. If you like bullfights, don’t miss it.
Carnival is popular in all the country, the best is in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, but if you are at the peninsula, Cadiz and Sitges are the places to go.
Valencia: Fiestas and Folklore
Valencia is known in all the country for its rollicking festivals and for its spectacular fireworks, which have developed in this city to an art of its own. Here they spend a whole year building a pyrotechnical work of art which then will burn down in one single night. This also shows the character of the population to really enjoy the moment and celebrate each festival as if it were the last one.
Most important are certainly the Fallas de San José, a celebration of the beginning of springtime. In all the town you will see impressive cardboard-constructions which will be burned at the last day of the festival, March, 19th, after a great party in the streets and locals of Valencia that takes four days.
But the spectacle goes on during an entire week more, with dances in those beautiful regional dresses, bullfights and fireworks.
For Feria de Julio (in July) all Valencia is decorated with a sea of flowers. Again there are dancing parties, fireworks and some of the most important bullfights of Spain.
At October, 9th , the Day of Comunidad Valenciana, there are commemorations of the reconquest of the town from the Moors.
Another typical festival is the “Fiesta de la Mocaorá”, an event in particular beloved by gourmets: specially for it are prepared those traditional specialities of marzipan, Piuletes and Tronadors.
The festival of San Fermin is by far the best known event taking place in Pamplona. TV-spectators in all the world are surprised, impressed or shocked each year when they watch the spectacle of bulls running through the streets of the town and hundreds of young men, usually dressed in traditional white shirts and red belts, ahead of them. Taking this challenge frequently ends in blood and tears. Hemingway was deeply impressed by Pamplona’s Sanfermines, as by the tradition of bullfighting in general, and reports on it in several of his books. The way through the town leads to the bullring, where in the evening of the same day are celebrated some of the most important bullfights of all the season, with the very best toreros.
The spectacle as described above takes place on the first day of the festival, on July, 7th. During the following week all Pamplona is the scenery of an enormous party, with dancing and singing and drinking – it is certainly the most exciting week of all the year.
Although the Sanfermines of Pamplona are the best known event of that kind, there are similar festivals in several of the villages around: in Tudela from July, 24th to 28th, in Estella from the first Saturday in August, in Tafalla from August, 15th to 20th, and in Sanguesa from September, 11th to 17th.
Another very interesting tradition in the province is the “Ceremonia del Tributo de las tres Vacas”, in Roncal valley, on July, 13th. A contract from 1375 obligates the inhabitants of the french Baretous valley to pay an annual tribute in form of three cows to the people of Piedra San Martín. The ceremony is executed by the town-mayors, in medieval gowns.
On May, 25th takes place a festival of traditional regional dances, called Baile de la Era, in Estella.
On June, 24th, pilgrims of all the region come together in a cave close to the Hermitage of San Juan de Xar, in Yanci, to wash themselves in the water of its three springs. Illnesses are said to be cured by that in a miraculous way.
If you are not familiar to Corridas, you will find here listed chronologically everything that happens. So you may decide by yourself if you want to see it when you are visiting Spain.
A Corrida starts with the paseillo, with everybody involved in the bullfight entering the ring and presenting himself to the public. Two Alguacilillos, on horse’s back, direct themselves to the presidency and symbolically ask for the keys to the “puerta de los toriles”. Behind that door there are the bulls.
With the door being opened and the first bull entering the ring the spectacle starts. It consists of three parts, called tercios, being separated by horn-signals. There are three toreros in each Corrida, by the way, and each will have to torear two bulls.
In the first tercio the bullfighter uses the capote, a quite large rag of purple and yellow color. Now enter two picadores, on horse’s back and armed with a sort of lance.
The second part is la suerte de banderillas. Three banderilleros have to stick a pair of banderillas into the attacking bull’s back.
In the final “suerte suprema” the bullfighter uses the muleta, a small red rag. He has to show his faena, his masterity to dominate the bull, and to establish an artistical symbiosis between man and beast. The Corrida ends with the torero killing the bull by his sword.