Tiny hamlet, but big on fiesta..
Festivals and fiestas in Spain, which one is the town celebrating its fiesta? Of course it's a fiesta. Girls dressed up in their finery in parades and procession in the Perleta Fiesta? Everybody knew about it, by everyone I'm saying it's the local knowledge. We're still new kids on the block, so we're slightly in the dark. Cinderella ball gowns… where’s the party? We’ve just recently found out more about this fiesta – held two weekends after Easter Sunday, so I’m told.
In Spain, it's celebrated in a nearby hamlet, the fiesta is Perleta's Annual event, in April. It had all the glamour of a much bigger event, from tiny tots to much bigger muscle-bound Spanish young men and beautiful ladies, to older gentlemen and gracious ladies. There were Kings and Queens of the Perleta Fiesta, as well as multiple Ladies-in-waiting of the fiesta, at the special ceremony.
A usual snack is a Mona Cake (Easter Cake). Cake shops have all kinds of Monas, gastronomic delights indeed, an ideal dessert after lunch or dinner. Or, a much simpler round of cake or pastry, with a hard boiled egg in the centre. The second Monday after Easter is also the feast day of San Vicente Ferrer… that’s right, it’s another fiesta.
My word! Who ever said it first off was totally correct – it seems like in Spain, there is a fiesta going on every week throughout the whole year, in little unheard-of villages. One which the outside world, perhaps knows nothing about, yet that they all have the splendour of fireworks, flags, costumed veterans and newbies, kings and queens of the hour, food galore, drink, i.e. sangria, wines, and ‘cava’ (the Spanish equivalent to champagne), parades.
The Spanish seem to have the exuberance, the joie de vivre of a more simple but vibrant life that visitors from other countries may want to escape to, once in a while.
The San Vicente Ferrer festival lasts for 4 or 5 days. As usual, it has games, races, football matches for the neighbourhood kids, dances and live music, parish church services, fireworks, processions, feasts of paella and sangria. The Perleta-Maitino festival is the one closest to us, but it took us till this year to find out about it in detail. So we made it a point to check in on the action throughout the day and night, when we were out and about.
The Barraco Bar had been set up, close to the church (ermita). Its door stays shut until about 11:00pm midnight, then opens up when the night-owls begin partying.
The focus of many of the festival events is in and around the church square. At the superette (they have a bar and delicious coffee is served there as well as pastries) at Perleta, throngs of people are milling about with excitement and a heightened expectation. Another huge tent had also been set up to house a big stage, an even bigger bar at the other end, seats and long trestle tables, for the neighbourhood to meet, chat, have some fantastic food, and enjoy formal festivities like crowning of the queens and kings….
The night of the opening ceremony there were flags to be raised, fireworks, and the introduction of the queens and kings of the hour, as well as the bewildering array of the ladies-in-waiting…. down to the cute 4 or 5 year-olds, dressed in their finery, their mothers fussing and clucking away.
Groups of girls and their beautiful ball gowns, possibly worrying about inane things… does my bum look big in this getup, have I got a clean hanky?…in small clusters before the main event. Mothers and daughters … mothers and sons… all in need of support and love, as the young ‘uns make their debut into an adult world.
I’m never seen a parade quite like this, the young boys in all their finery looking out for the young women/girls who were their partner for the night. I saw one young boy who partnered a much taller girl, making sure that he was not tripping over her gown, as they progressed down the aisle towards the stage. His hair slicked back although an errant curl kept escaping - looking boyishly handsome, providing a dashing foil for his partner.
The next day was the ‘gigantic’ paella day. Though, not quite as large as I’ve seen it on TV, it was a sizeable paella, filled with all sorts of goodies… namely good size pork pieces, chicken, prawns… with a slight hint of rosemary, cooked to perfection.
There were football matches for the neighbourhood to watch in the morning as part of the festival - after the match, the atmosphere was just right, for a famished teams and their supporters to tuck into the gigantic paella, washed down with jugs of drink.
In the evening the next day, we attended the Floral Offering at Perleta. From a long way, the medieval sounds of the minstrel-band got closer to Perleta. Already, there were car parking problems; and this was normally a sleepy little village.
People, neighbours, were arriving in dozens of cars, the police was directing traffic…. And all the while, the flashes of colour were getting closer. The minstrel band was playing, maidens in the rows of twos and threes, following the flag-bearer. They passed us as we clicked and flashed the camera on the lane leading out of the village. Where are they going?
Half an hour later, there they are again, coming the other way… and they were followed by a multitude of women, bearing huge bunches of flowers, in the procession along with the other queens of the parade. Ahhhh! Now it becomes clear – these two villages share the same ‘saint’, San Vicente Ferrer. And this was the saint’s feast-day celebrations… so the inhabitants of Perleta were going to collect the devotees of Maitino in a parade; then the swollen number of people (children, adults, grandfathers and grandmothers, even babies!) would return to Perleta and the festivities continued.
The procession proceeded into the church, a tiny little church when compared with the throngs of people/neighbours gathered outside… more people were arriving by the minute. We inched along to the entrance of the church; it was very packed inside… but, the people standing at the doorway made space for us.
It was a very uplifting church, peaceful and quiet during meditation, adorned with flowers everywhere. The choir was assembled, murmurs quietened, there was an expectation of something wonderful about to happen…
The notes were pure and true, rich voices in harmony, a joy to listen to – they were singing ‘a cappela’ – four-part harmony, the beauty of music and song without instrumental accompaniment – haunting, melodic and reverent. You could hear a pin drop – there was a hush .. and then tumultuous applause at the end of the choir’s performance.
The next evening’s programme was the culmination of the extended weekend of festivities. Parking down the road, we walked quickly to the church, where the parade was about ready to proceed. We wondered what the candles were for… Aha! They were for the devotees, accompanying the procession.
Out from the church came the flag-bearers, the queens and kings, beautifully coiffed mantilla-clad women … and two pasos, the throne/dais or platform, the first on which sat the image of the Our Lady of the Assuption (Virgin Mary), and carried solely by women. A second paso with the patron saint, San Vicente Ferrer was carried by men followed further back. The candle-bearing devotees formed two lines, one each side of the road, flanking the pasos and kings/queens etc who took the centre line.
It was like a film-set, with us just extras in the film of atmospheric, medieval Spain…
But, it is now, and it happens every year… just down the road from where we live – slightly surreal. When we go past the superette in Perleta, the day after, it’s just the sleepy village square that we’re accustomed to. However, we now know what it hides in the folds in its dress… the spectacular scenes that we were so fortunate to be a part of, that happens every year, without fail. Cinderella ball gowns? Yes, can’t wait for next years’ festivities.