Novelist. Author of APSARAS and tales from the beautiful Saigh Valley. First person to quantify spiritual values.

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Friday 25 March 2011

Las Fallas, Valencia 2011


17th – 19th March 2011

I have just returned from a three-day (two night) trip to Valencia for the annual ‘Las Fallas’ festival, held traditionally from 15th-19th March, el Dia de San Jose.
And what a party it was! The festival celebrated by the Valencianos has captured the imagination of not only the wider Community Valenciana, but also the rest of Spain and the international community as well.

Most people, when asked what they know about ‘Las Fallas’ will probably think of the huge figures sculpted from paper that are burnt at the end of the festival. These days, however, there is so much more to enjoy.

It is said that the origin of these huge caricatures, called ninots or ninyots, made these days of polystyrene, came from a winter tradition of carpenters making scarecrows by candlelight. Over time they made these figures, dressed in old clothes, to resemble their neighbours or dignitaries in an effort to promote local scandal and debate. The custom caught on and competition to produce the funniest and most satirical ninot or ninyot was born.
Las Fallas, assembled at many street intersections and in all the different regions of the City are complex assemblies of several figures that take up to a year to make. They are assembled in two days and nights and burnt to the ground in minutes.

However, the fantastic sculptures are not all that make up the festival. The offering of flowers to the ‘Virgen de los Desamparados’ is a spectacular parade made up of men, women and children, all beautifully dressed, from all the Barrios of Valencia, each with their own marching band. The procession takes hours and finishes outside the Cathedral where the ladies’ present bunches of flowers to build a giant floral effigy of the Virgin and Child. The ladies and girls, so steeped in the tradition and sense of Valenciana culture, are often moved to tears by the whole experience.
At two o’clock, each day, the festivities are started with the ‘mascletà’, a thunderous barrage of explosives that has to be experienced to be believed. So intense is the noise, it makes one wonder if it is like the artillery bombardments of the first-world war.

The feria would not be complete without the corridas.
Your reporter attended on the Thursday to see the matadors:
Morante de la Puebla, José María Manzanares y Daniel Luque, who
fought the bulls of Núñez del Cuvillo.

For those who have never attended a corrida, with its history and traditions, the opening scene could hardly be more dramatic as the matadors de toros and their cuadrillas parade before the President. The show is well choreographed, a drama composed of several distinct parts starting with the toreros assessing the bull with a series of flourishes. The picadors then test the bull before the banderilleros demonstrate their skill. The stage is then set for the finale. The matador de toros takes centre stage with his magenta and gold capote as he allows the bull to demonstrate his courage and stamina.
‘Olé’ shout out the aficionados at each successful pass.
With the bull, finally subdued, the crowd hush and the matador seeks the President’s permission to finally honour the bull.
If the crowd feel that the matador de toros has done well they petition the President by waving a white handkerchief or their programs and he might respond by awarding an ear (one white handkerchief) or two. He may further award the tail.

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