16.09.2011 - 18.09.2011 31 °C
It’s been a busy time, hardly a chance to read a whole Terry Pratchett and definitely not enough to read more than a couple of pages of a text book. After spending the day in Malaga on Friday I went straight to Salares with dad and Wendy for the first night of their Fiesta, which lasted 3 days but is not one of their official two, so the villagers don’t get the Monday off afterwards.
I’ll start with Friday afternoon, which, after the castle in the morning, consisted of visiting the Roman amphitheatre, a mooch around the beach then the backstreets, Tapas lunch and a little shopping. The beach isn’t a place to be on your own; you can’t leave your stuff and go off for a swim so a couple of Cokes in one of the bars whilst watching the British tourists turning a bright shade of lobster was about the only option. As I knew we’d be heading for the fiesta in the evening and it gets dark really early here, I picked up a second-hand flash for my camera, which, without any Spanish on my part, or English on the shopkeeper’s, was a surprising success.
Salares is the smaller of the two villages near to my father’s place, and is a ten minute drive or a thirty minute walk cross-country, down the mountain. It has a healthy rivalry with Sedella, the larger village, half an hour’s walk in the opposite direction. They share quite a lot of players between the village bands and Wendy plays in both. She’d already done the afternoon slot by the time I got back so we went down about ten o clock to see what was happening.
Each village around here gets two fiesta slots a year, usually one in the summer and one in the winter, but this was Salares third one of the year, to celebrate its Moorish heritage, so there were a few costumes around, the village was hung with crescent moon decorations and most of the music and dancing was Arabic-themed.
On the first night there was a video of the year in Salares to date, followed by a group of local girls demonstrating their belly-dancing, both held in a torchlit courtyard high up in the village which was small, very atmospheric and very packed.
And a... belly dancing group, accompanied by a fire-eater
There are only about 200 villagers in Salares and the population had at least doubled for the fiesta. As they have to raise the money for the fiestas locally and they give away free kebabs on the Friday
and free paella for everybody on Sunday, the tradition is to buy an appropriate number of raffle tickets to support the fund for the next fiesta. I didn’t even ask what the prizes were.
The healthy rivalry between Sedella and Salares meant that Sedella had scheduled a one-day candalario celebration on Saturday, right in the middle of Salares Al-sharq festival. As Wendy was playing at that too, we spent Saturday evening there, before returning to Salares. Nobody seems to know what the candelaria was about, other than that ‘it must be held on the 8th September- no, the weekend closest to it, no- the other one, you know, when Salares are doing their eastern mystic thingy’, and the best description I got in English was ‘it’s about taking the village virgin up the back alleys, accompanied by fireworks, while the whole village follows’. This sounds more like the kind of festival that ought to have been held in Norfolk rather than Spain. In this case the village virgin was a wooden statue on a bier, lit with electric bulbs and borne by 6 men (Although you can see why that particular celebration would have naturally died out in Norfolk, as even wooden virgins are hard to come by there).
They have a very relaxed attitude towards punctuality here and although the start time is advertised in advance, this is pretty much a waste of time as what is really meant is, ‘we’ll start when everybody is here’ and, as there’s nothing to see, nobody bothers turning up until something starts. To defuse this particular paradox they use signal rockets (maroons), a kind of firework for the blind, which have virtually no visual effect but produce a massive noise, which echoes around the mountains. One person carries a sack full of them at the head of the procession whilst another lets them off, one at a time, using a staple on a short, charred wooden stick as a launcher.
I thoroughly approve of this kind of approach to health and safety, which makes the English way look like a bunch of pathetic worriers. Needless to say, many of the Brit ex-pats here don’t approve at all of this kind of celebration, which may last ‘til 4 O’clock in the morning with the close marked by a ‘tracker’ or long series of closely spaced, equally loud, fireworks, and may stop them from going to bed at a decent time like 10 O’clock (when the Spanish get up to eat and start the evening). I mean, who would behave in this kind of way, hardly gives you time in the morning to get up and read the daily mail. Also needless to say that these particular type of ex-pats don’t show up for fiestas unless the mayor tells them to, until the free paella. (You can see why the rest of the world resents the British; exporting these kind of weapons should be illegal- although exporting a few more might do Britain some good domestically- you watch out Johnny foreigner, I don’t care if this is your country- more of that behaviour and we’ll ship Andrew Lloyd-Webber over to live next door to you. Far more effective than a gunboat)
There were a few stalls in the streets of Salares, selling a range of goods from handmade jewellery to remote control cars. I managed to get a present for Sarah from the leather stall which sold a range of things, some made by the proprietor, whose English was commendable and some, equally hand-made, by a friend in Morocco. He put so much effort into explaining each of his items, where and how they were made and what from that I happily bought the most expensive item he had to sell, and he sold it to me equally happily.
In the morning the Salares band, half of whom are also the Sedella band, played a session on stage which was followed by sword dancing,
a belly-dancing competition with 5 acts, hence the number of similarly themed photos.
Although the local girls, who had performed the night before joined in, they didn’t win, although I thought that being the home side and related to most of the judges only counted against you in England. The afternoon had the free Paella
followed by a group playing traditional Moorish music and occasionally joined by a professional dancer.
There was also a falconry display, although this consisted mainly of watching the birds sit on perches, Wendy did say she saw one fly across the square once.
At 5 we had to leave to sort out the animals and although it was only scheduled to go on for another hour or so, it was still going at 11 o clock.
Here's some of the dance competitors in shortened form: