Tuesday, 10 March 2009

On fiestas, fun and fireworks!

While Vigo has been celebrating the Reconquista, a bit further along the coast in Baiona they have been looking rather further back in history. The event was La Arribada, the return to Spain of La Pinta, one of the three boats which took Cristobal Colon, known to most of the English speaking world as Chrisopher Columbus, on his voyage of discovery. La Pinta came to report the success of the journey and the event is remembered with parades, jousting and all kinds of medieval fun and games in Baiona.

In 1992, the 500th anniversary of the discovery of the New World, Spain had a wonderful year. The Olympic Games were held that year in Barcelona, Expo 92, an international exhibition, took place in Sevilla and, to mark the 500th anniversary of Columbus' journey they built replicas of the three ships, La Nina, La Pinta and La Santa Maria which set off to make the same journey as Columbus did all those centuries ago. This time, of course, they were equipped with radio contact and modern navigational technology but they were still ridiculously small to be crossing that vast expanse of ocean. All three of them could fit easily into the biggest of the cruise ships that call in at Vigo nowadays! The replica of La Pinta stands in Baiona harbour. During the weekend festivities, if you were dressed up in medieval costume you could visit the boat for free!

Meanwhile, over in Valencia they have been finishing off
Las Fallas, a city wide bonfire and fireworks party. Apparently it began as a celebration of the work of the carpenters' guilds who would make elaborate constructions with offcuts of wood and then have a ritual bonfire. Over time this developed into a festival of satire and politics. Hermandades compete to produce the best representation of some well known figure or recent event, usually employing an artist to create the work. These are displayed on the streets and plazas, judged and the best preserved in the museo de Fallas. The rest are ceremonially burnt, accompanied by firework displays and lots of throwing of bangers on the streets.

Now, this year there has been much discussion on the television about the health and safety aspect of this activity.
Bomberos have been filmed visiting schools to teach children how to handle fireworks safely, how to be aware of the dangers and generally to have a healthy respect for pyrotechnics. An EU directive is about to make it illegal for under-twelves to set off fireworks. Inevitably, in a country with a long tradition of setting off cohetes (rockets) by holding them on your hand and then letting go and of throwing petardos (firecrackers) into crowds at fiestas, this has led to a storm of protests about the infringement of basic rights!


  1. I'd just like to stress that one of the ships - the Santa Maria, I think - has been built in the Poio shipyards of Pontevedra and launched as A/La Galega/Gallega.

    And that CC was from Poio.