Friday, 26 June 2009

Pigs might fly ...

If pigs could fly, maybe they would go along to the A Laxe Centro Comercial here in Vigo to see one of their mates, a wonderfully blue winged porker standing outside the entrance.

Now, when we think of animals and Spain, it's usually bulls that come to mind. Allariz, which I visited recently, celebrates
A Festa do Boi, the feast of the bull/ox in the first week or so of June. This fiesta dates back to the middle ages and reflects some of the Jewish - Christian conflict of the time. It seems that the Jewish community of Allariz would make fun of the priests and the religious symbols in the Corpus Christi procession as it went past the streets of the Jewish quarter. One year a certain Xan de Arzua, a devout if not very forgiving Christian, decided he had had enough and rode in the procession on a bull, throwing ants and ashes at the "disrespectful Jews".

And so began a new tradition, running garlanded oxen or bulls through the town, which continues to this day. The fiesta has extended nowadays to a week-long affair, quite a big tourist attraction including a day of activities for children so that they don't feel left out. As this is Spain, of course, there has to be some eating and drinking involved and so a big communal meal is organised for all the people involved in the fun and games.

And there there is Pamplona and the San Fermines, described by Hemingway in his book,
The Sun also Rises. The religious aspect of the feast of San Fermin, celebrated with bull-running in Pamplona early in July but in reality rather later in the year, seems to have got lost in the mists of time. What we are left with is the opportunity for crazy people of many nationalities to have a go at running through the streets of Pamplona chasing or chased by large and dangerous animals.

Here in Vigo, however, we do not run any risks from the pigs which adorn the shopping centre. Sponsored by Lalin Pork Art, originating with some artists from Lalin in the province of Pontevedra, it is a form of street art, intended to engage the public and arouse some interest. The pigs are here until the end of August when they move on to fresh fields and pigsties new.

This has been described as Galicia's answer to the Cow Parade which I saw back in 2004 in Manchester, colourful cows spread over the whole of the city centre with a map to help you locate all of them: great fun if shopping with children. That exhibition also moved around a lot and I saw some of the cows again in Florence the following year on a very cold Christmas visit. The exhibits from the Cow Parade were sponsored by people such as Elton John, Ringo Starr and Queen Rania of Jordan and were finally auctioned for charity.

Mind you, the best example of such street art, for my money, is the Palomas por la Paz which I saw on my first ever visit to Bilbao in the summer of 2004. Local schools had been given huge model doves to decorate as they liked. These were then placed around the city, perched in trees, suspended in flight between buildings, drinking from fountains or just plain standing around, each one with a label saying which group of children had decorated it. This was street art with a message.

Sadly there is an extra message with the street art of Lalin Pork Art. Each exhibit has a plaque saying who designed it and then an accompanying message asking the public to respect the art and reminding them that anyone damaging an exhibit is liable to a fine of 1,200 euros! Ouch! But then, they do hope to sell each little piggy for around 3,500 euros!

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