One of the great things about Spain is that the Spanish love to celebrate and have a good time. They will go to just about any length to find any excuse to party. As a whole Spanish people, despite their religious past (Inquisition, anyone?) are not very religious. In fact, I don’t think I have met one Spaniard in six months who claims to be a stern Catholic or even a religious individual in general. This has led me to conclude that in Spain, people don’t like to practice religion as much as they like to celebrate it.
By this, I mean that Spain has many festivals with traditional religious roots but currently carry very little religious significance; rather, it is an excuse to have a party. Think about the images that come into your mind when you imagine San Fermines, the biggest festival in Pamplona. This festival was originally meant to celebrate Saint Fermine, but has virtually turned into a week of debauchery for locals and international travelers alike, who only practice drinking wine all day and running away from bulls opposed to practicing creed. The fact is, the festival of San Fermine is just a macrocosm of what occurs throughout the country during the spring and summer.
Every city, town, and village, no matter how large or small, has at least two festivals every year. In fact, the town where I live, Autol, home to only roughly 4,000 habitants, enjoys three festivals annually (keep in mind that all local festivals involve bulls-whether it be bull runs or bull fights). And don’t begin to think that the series of local festivals occur at random; on the contrary they are very well coordinated to the extent that in a given region the festivals rarely overlap, but instead occur virtually every weekend for several months. That is to say, if one were so inclined one could attend a different festival in a different city/village/town every weekend for roughly 6 months out of the year.
This past weekend was the festival in Calahorra, a nearby town of about 20,000 people. I was fortunate enough to be invited to a show at the plaza de toros (bull ring) by some locals related to my landlords. I had seen a corrida in Pamplona last year, the well-known event where the bulls are killed by a matador with a sword, but this event was much different. It was not a 'bull fight' where they slay the bulls, but rather a competition among younger, less experienced toreros, men ranging from the ages of 18-26 or so. The way it works is that there are 12 teams of 2 people. One pair at a time, the toreros enter the bullring with only small silver rings in hand (no sword or spear). Once the bull is released, the pair has 3 minutes to try to put as many silvers rings on the horns of the bull as possible. This means getting very, very close to horns. One pair, comprising of a 19 year old and a 21 year old was unfortunate enough to get the rowdiest bull, who in only 3 minutes broke both arms of one contestant and the wrist of his partner, by slamming them into the wall. It was good fun.
Anyway, the point is, festival season has arrived in Spain and I’m loving it.
In other news, my friend David and I are planning a trip to Prague and Vienna for Easter week because we have a 10-day vacation. It should be a really good time, Prague is supposed to be a lot of fun and very cheap while Vienna is said to be among the most beautiful cities in the world. Also, Nick Shirley, who is living in Austria with his wife and teaching English like myself, is planning on meeting us in Vienna and showing us around. It’s a small world huh?