Tuesday, 16 February 2010

On the streets of Vigo … again.

A cold coming they had of it … oh, no, it wasn’t the three kings this time it was Carnaval. (Apologies Mr T. S. Elliot for misquoting your poem!) And they certainly had a cold time of it. The Carnaval procession made its way along Rosalía de Castro accompanied by the most biting wind imaginable. At least it didn’t rain or snow, as it did in some parts of the country. The cold did not prevent lots of people from turning out in fancy dress and did not seem to damp the enthusiasm of those taking part in the parade.

Even before the parade started there was plenty to see on Plaza de Compostela: There were what appeared to be mobile jazz bands, a group of large shellfish and an impressive green dragon as well as hundreds of pirates and a whole hoard of Bob Esponja lookalikes (non Spanish speakers, that’s your old friend Sponge Bob Square Pants).

Once it got started, the parade went on and on and on. Some of the dancers looked as though they were risking hypothermia. The more sensible of them had bodystockings under their bikinis and flimsy skirts but not all of them. The newspaper the next day complimented the participants on the wonderful show and declared that algunas jóvenes bailarinas vestían unos ventilados modelitos que quitaban el hipo. Now, that is a wonderful way of saying that their skimpy costumes took your breath away but means literally that they shocked your hiccoughs away. No further comment needed.

Mind you, for the best of the carrozas (more or less “floats”), it would be worth their while. Each one was numbered and there are prizes for the ones judged to be the best: 400, 300 and 200 euros.

Sunday was only slightly less cold but many still turned out in their costumes to wait inline for turns on the many hinchables (bouncing castles) on Plaza de Compostela while at the other end of the alameda a group of drag princesses were on stage singing Dirty Old Town in ... yes, you’ve guessed it ... gallego.

In Plaza de la Constitución the merdeiros were out and about. Vigo’s Carnaval apparently belongs to the fishing community and the merdeiros are apparently a satirical comment on agricultural workers who collected the manure for their fields. In their modern guise they chased children, and some adults, around the square threatening them with big sticks and trying to put them in the rubbish bins.

The fun and games continued yesterday and today. At this time of year it’s hard to move around the old part of town without coming across a procession. Today it all comes to an end with the burying of the sardine, another excuse for dressing up and parading through the streets down to the harbour where a mock burial service will take place. In Santa Cruz de Tenerife, however, they continue with the jollities and don't bury the sardine until Saturday. But then, apart from recent rain storms, as a rule they have better weather for dancing on the streets.

One explanation for the Entierro de la Sardina is that a group of university students in 19th century Madrid decided it would be a good idea to conduct a funeral procession for a sardine, As with many odd acts of behaviour in Spain, such as throwing tomatoes at each other or running in front of wild bulls, the Spanish decided to make a festival out of it. Others give it more importance and say that the Entierro de la Sardina is symbolic for the fasting and abstinence that follows in the period of lent. It sounds like another case of pagan rites of spring with sacrifices to ensure good harvests in the coming year being incorporated into the Christian calendar.

And although there have been pancake making competitions and concursos de postres de carnaval, I have not had a single pancake. However, yesterday morning my panadera did give me a bag of broken orejas de carnaval, strange confections made from batter, I think, which when whole look like the ears of the BFG and which all the children love to take to school for Carnaval parties!!!

This blog should have been festooned with photos but unfortunately the system let me down. Apologies to anyone who was looking forward to a visual feast!!!


  1. "Dirty Old Town"

    You mean the Manchester/Liverpool song?

  2. The very one. Mind you, recently I came upon a gallego folk concert on TV. At one point they announced that good traditional gallego song "os animais". Then I heard, in gallego, "The animals went in two by two, hurrah! hurrah!"