Archive | October, 2011

A fería like no other

26 Oct

In a land not so very far away, there was a magical place where Cruz Campo flowed just as freely as the olive oil and the tapas were almost certainly free. It was a place where olives outnumbered the people, most of whom walked fearlessly through the streets, unafraid of the ghosts of bygone Lizard or Tranvia. Yes there, at the base of the Santa Catalina Castle, in the looming shadow of the cathedral, lay the city of Jaén. And every October people flocked from near and from far – from Madrid and Malaga; Ohio and New Jersey – just to observe what the locals fondly referred to as “la fería.” Yes, my friends, it truly is the most wonderful 10 days of the year.

At the fall of night on the very first day, the fair citizens of Jaén (and those from farther away too) descend upon the fairgrounds. The path marked with bright lights leads these citizens safely to the fairgrounds, much like the lit path of the airport runway guides planes onto the ground. And these fairgoers are about to have the layover of their lifetime.

Passing though the ‘big white castle’ of an entrance, the fair’s sights, sounds and smells assault the senses. You want a purse? a scarf? maybe some candied almonds for the trip down? how about a nice pair of shutter-shades with the Spanish flag?

– Why yes! I’ll take three, thank you!

And turning the corner, with the smell of sweet churros wafting from the nearby tent, the fair unfolds like a scene from a movie. Down the hill you go. Past the botellón spot on the left, where money-consious youth bring their own previously-purchased bottles (the country is in crisis, after all!). Down. Past the circus tent on the right. Down. Past the numerous carnival games. Down. Past the stands selling baked potatoes. Down. Pausing only for a mojito from the gypsy man. Down. Until you have arrived.

And you will know for certain when you have arrived because you will no longer hear the person standing next to you over the noise of the nearby tents. But alas, against the better judgement of your ears (which will be ringing for days), you follow that music into the nearest tent. And there it begins. From tent to tent you hop, pausing for food, for an occasional trip to the bumper cars or on the giant viking ship. You don’t stop until you can take it no longer and then it’s back up into the real world you emerge. Although, may it be advised that this trip is best made during the light of day as the sun slowly creeps up over the mountains.

And there it is. Much like the instructions on the back of a shampoo bottle (wash. rinse. repeat.) Rather this time it’s more like: sleep. dance. eat. repeat. And repeat as many times as you can before the final Sunday. Afterall, the fair only comes once a year!

Word of the Day: basura (n.): garbage, as in “The fair is still a lovely place despite the fact that it often is covered in and smells like basura.

Happy Spain Day!

12 Oct

October 12th.

Not only should this date resonate with Spaniards as the Fiesta Nacional de España – the National Day of Spain – but also with all our amigos over on the Western Hemisphere because todays date marks the day that Christopher Columbus landed in the New World. With so many things to celebrate, it’s no wonder we needed the day off of work!

As with many Spanish holidays, this one too comes with a religious background. Today is the day of Nuestra Señora de Pillar – Our Lady of the Pillar – who also happens to be the Virgin Mary. Are you confused yet? It’s a good thing I didn’t put in any hours at work so I had more time to sift through all this!

To keep it brief, Mary appeared to James on the banks of the river Ebro, offering to give him help and guidance along with something a little more solid – a pillar with which James was to build a church. The pillar today is located in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza, Spain.

 

As you can probably imagine, todays holiday is a much bigger deal in Zaragoza at the site of the basilica. But Our Lady of the Pillar became the national patroness of Spain and of the Spanish Civil Guard thus creating the need to celebrate everywhere.

In Zaragoza there is a festival, in Madrid a big parade. And in Lucena, a celebration that seems only appropriate for the size and lifestyle of the town – an hour long concert in the main square. Who says living in a small town doesn’t have it’s charm?

So in ending, I wish you all a very happy October 12th – no matter what or where you are choosing to celebrate.

Today’s Word: perezoso (adj.): lazy; as in “I had the day off and I’ve been nothing but perezoso”

 

La Romería

10 Oct

Maybe you’ve heard that religion isn’t as strong as it used to be in Spain. And ok, maybe Saturday at the club is more crowded than Sunday morning mass. But one thing is for certain when it comes to religion: these Spaniards take it very, very seriously. Example numero uno: La Romería

A romería is basically a religious pilgrimage that consists of a trip to a certain sanctuary or hermitage. These pilgrimages come in all shapes and sizes (as do their pilgrims) and usually last about a day. Some romerías are more famous than others – such as Nuestra Señora del Rocio and Virgen de la Cabeza, which are both in Andalucía.

However, this past Sunday took us to a little place called Cabra. (For you Spanish-speakers: yes, the city is named “Goat.”) Located only 8 kilometers from Lucena, the charming white-washed town is surrounded by – you guessed it – olive trees and mountains. And right atop the tallest peak around lies the Santuario de la Virgen de la Sierra — The Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Mountain. The sanctuary is supposedly on the spot where the Virgin Mary herself appeared in the cave some hundreds and hundreds of years ago.

The statue of the Virgin lives up on the altar of the sanctuary’s church for nearly the entire year with the exception of September when she makes her big appearance in town for the fair.

And how, you might ask, does a Virgin get from the top of a mountain to the center of town? Well, let me just tell you that she does not have a drivers license nor would she fit behind the wheel of a car, for that matter. She, of course, is carried down from the top of the mountain on the shoulders of her faithful citizens in Cabra.

For nearly a month she enjoys her place in the city and makes an appearance at the fair being held in her honor before it is time yet again for her to return to her place overlooking the city. That’s where the romería comes into play. They same faithful (and strong, I might add) citizens carry the Virgin back up the mountain to her rightful home.

Not wanting to miss a good opportunity for a little fiesta (we’re talking about Spain, after all) people from all over come to bring the Virgin back to the top of the mountain. Some walk on foot, some ride horses and others still take the winding road by car.

Wanting to get the full effect we found ourselves hiking – rather, struggling – up the side of the mountain for what may have been 2.5 of the roughest hours of my life. And I wasn’t even carrying a Virgin! But atop the hill we were rewarded with stunning views of the province of Córdoba, a visit to the Virgin Mary and a heaping plate of paella prepared by the good people of Cabra. All in all, a good Sunday.

Today’s Wordmontaña (n.): mountain; as in “I’m exhausted after hiking straight up the montaña to see the Virgin Mary.”