The last weekend in August found us in Diego’s home town to celebrate their “fiestas” and a baptism. Seemingly everyone here in Madrid is originally from some tiny pueblo in Spain, and each little town has a patron saint. On that saint’s “day,” they celebrate with cookouts, live music, traditional and modern dancing, and socializing with people you haven’t seen in a long time. Diego’s town has a population of about 100 people, but even that’s an over exaggeration because most of them only live there during the summertime. In the winter, the population drops down to about 30 people. But during the fiestas, many people came to celebrate-including me, the “token foreigner”.
When I first saw the schedule of events for the fiestas, I noticed that all of the nighttime parties started at 1 am. And then I thought, I’m too old for this…and pretty much decided that I would be sleeping through them. Well one night at around 12:30 am, I was about to get ready for bed when everyone started talking about getting ready to go out. At first I said I wasn’t going, but with some persuasion from Diego’s family, I went out with them to the plaza. We went to the bar (only one in the town) to get drinks and soon after, the band started to play on a huge stage in the middle of the plaza. It was a surreal experience, being that the town is so tiny but it felt like a legit concert. The band played a huge variety of songs in Spanish and English. For every song I recognized, I got super excited and danced and sang along. They covered songs by Nirvana, Bob Marley, Rage Against the Machine, Rihanna, Metallica, and Kings of Leon. I can’t think of a word to describe the feeling, but in my head I was thinking “wow, how did I even get to be here in Spain, in a tiny town, dancing with locals in a plaza that has hundreds of years of history, getting this authentic experience as a total guiri?!” I also enjoyed some time talking over drinks in a local garden, and I was grateful to feel so welcome in what seemed to be an exclusive party.
During another night of the celebrations, a small team of local hunters prepares a meal of jabalí (wild pig). To be honest, I was not expecting to like it, but I knew I would at least try it. It turned out to be really, really good. So delicious that I wanted a second serving (but there’s no way I could fit it in my stomach). Everyone brings their own tables and chairs, plates and silverware, and gathers around to enjoy the meal. You get in line and bring your plate to be filled with the jabalí and potatoes. They also serve wine and bread.
Kids also had a ton of fun between the games of soccer, the giant inflatable water slide, and the foam maker. It reminded me of freshman year in college, where we had a foam party I’ll never forget.
One tradition this town has is called tajuela, a game of throwing rocks. Yup. But it’s fun! Think of horseshoes for when you don’t have horseshoes or a stake. You place two rocks “12 steps” away from each other and try to hit the rock with another rock that you throw. If you can’t hit it, getting your rock to be the closest also gets you points. Being the only American there, I got to represent my country with pride. Well, I practiced to try to catch up with the locals, who play every year…but still lost tragically in the first round of the tournament. Oh well.
Most towns keep their traditional dances alive by teaching them to younger generations and showing them during the fiestas. I enjoyed seeing the variety of the dances, and the traditional dresses are really amazing. You almost feel like you’ve gone back 100 years.
One of the most important parts of the fiestas is going to misa (mass) and right after, following in a procession to carry the saint around the town to bless it. I also got to see something similar in Northern Spain earlier in August. So this tradition still survives in many places in Spain!
On Saturday, Diego’s niece and nephew were baptized. After the ceremony, everyone heads to the bar to celebrate. Then we went to a grassy area near the local river to continue the celebration. It was almost like a wedding reception with catered food and drinks, music, and lots of people. I made a small contribution to the dessert table with my “American” cookies. I made chocolate chip and chocolate peanut butter.
The meal consisted of appetizers, paella, dessert and drinks. And by appetizers, I mean enough food to fill you up before you even get the paella. There were about 10 different appetizers, seriously. From shrimp skewers to octopus to jamón, cheeses, eels with peppers…and much more. I tried to pace myself but ended up very full. Diego seemed prepared in the beginning, but was defeated in the end by the paella. I´ll spare him the embarrassment of the photo of him sleeping on the bench 🙂
It’s always a good time going to the pueblo, but it’s especially amazing when there’s a celebration. Just know though that in Spain, there’s always a reason for celebration!
All photos except the last 3 courtesy of http://www.mahide.eu/