between the lands

Jessica and Andrew’s travel journal

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Fallas = Fires = “fie-yahs”1

Posted by Jessica in SPAIN (April 10, 2007 at 9:19 am)

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Never in my life have I seen so many LITTLE KIDS running around UNSUPERVISED with fireworks and matches. OK, sometimes there was an adult present, but they were just there to re-light fuses with a cigarette if the little ones ran into trouble.
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Every year the beautiful Spanish city of Valencia transforms from a medieval gem of twisting streets into a seething, exploding firepit, with INCREDIBLE fireworks (official & street level), along with giant whimsical sculptures in the streets which are later BURNED to the ground in close proximity to houses, electric supply wires, and treetops.
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And they feed this with giant pans of paella cooked in the streets. It is wild!
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Las Fallas is a Catholic holiday, but we never figured out exactly how. We did see the giant figure of the Virgen in the main square.
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She started out a bit barren, but by the end of the week was completely decked out in flowers, (you could smell them across the square!), all hand-delivered by local Valencian@s who had carried them on foot across the whole city decked out in medieval get-up and very uncomfy-looking shoes.
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Each group had their own marching band. But where do the public burnings fit in…?
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The “Fallas?? are the giant sculptures they work on all year, just to BURN them down in a storm of FIREWORKS and GASOLINE on the night of March 19. They range from a few feet tall to several stories. They are usually ironic, and have little placards explaining the joke. Too bad we couldn’t read them in Valenciano, a northeastern dialect of Spanish.
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We also got to hang out with some Florida friends – Jessica Vaughn + Nilesh, and Mz Zoe + Txema. BIG THANKS to Txema for the use of his flat for a few more days after they went back to work! It was centrally located in the old part of town, which means there was a “quema?? – or street burning – a block away, AND we got to appreciate the 8am “despierta?? (alarm clock) – when lunatic Valencianos roam the streets with a marching band, dropping enormous bangers (fireworks) as they go. I miss you guys! XXXOOOXXXOOO
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Jess, Nilesh, and I (Jessica) took a side trip to visit the Aquarium, located in the Ciudad de las Ciencias, a field of buildings that look like spaceships from the movie Alien.CIMG0414 artcityscape.jpg It was COOL, except for the seals, whales, dolphins, and walruses – they were in tight quarters and grunted that they would really rather be out at sea. But the starfish really didn’t give a crap.
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Andrew finally got me out to a bullfight, or Corrido de Torros. Forget the romantic visions of a Man, a Bull, and the Spanish Sun… It’s 6 or 8 guys who taunt and tease the bull until it’s all tuckered out, and a 2 guys on armoured horses who stabs the bull really deep in the shoulders with a sharp pole. THEN the Matador AKA Mr Fancy-Pants finishes the bull off, sometimes quick and clean, other times messy, long and drawn-out, with the bull screaming. I didn’t like it so much. What’s so wrong with a quick, virtually painless death for food animals?
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ANDREW SEZ: if the pictures haven’t done it for you, click here for a MOVIE I made (7 OR 8 MINUTES LONG) It features a bullfight, day and night time fireworks, a chaotic episode where people were throwing fireworks at police, and of course, the burning of some fallas. Enjoy and remember not to play with fire…unless everybody else is.
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