Every year I wrestle with how to most effectively gather up and then spread before you the sights, sounds and experiences of Las Fallas in Valencia, and every year I recognize what a formidable challenge it is. There are a couple of reasons for this,* but the main one I’m struggling with today is that Las Fallas just has so many moving parts.
Since I began this post I’ve heard hundreds of explosions, and am now listening to the third marching band in the neighborhood, no doubt trailing after a few dozen Valencians in period costume making the rounds. They’re probably on their way to the Plaza de la Virgen, where the 350 neighborhoods in town send a floral offering, a process that takes two days. Part of each group bears an enormous arrangement on a palanquin, and each of the fallera princesses carries a posy of carnations that will be integrated into the giant floral robe of the statue of the virgin and child. We should be heading over there ourselves soon to see how it’s coming along.
Earlier this afternoon was the Mascletà, the daily explosion-fest in the town square, ground zero for this year’s contribution to hearing loss in the greater community. (Here’s a link to a video to give you some idea of what it’s like.) Yesterday we were several blocks away when the Mascletà occurred, and it felt like we were plenty close. We’ve learned to keep a sharp eye out for (usually) boys of a certain age holding smoldering rope wicks used for lighting fireworks that they delight in throwing down in the path of passing cyclists.
We’ve watched people making cooking fires in the streets, laying on the big, shallow paelleras and sprinkling handfuls of rice into the meat and broth mixture simmering its way to becoming the best kind of paella, the region’s signature dish. And we’ve succumbed to the temptation to buy deep-fried things coated in sugar.
We haven’t yet been out to see the light shows in the Ruzafa neighborhood, and we haven’t made the trek to watch the late-night fireworks up close. As the days progress, the start time for the fireworks begins at midnight and then moves later and later, all while I’m getting tireder and tireder.
The parade isn’t until tomorrow, and then there’s the crowning event, La Cremà, or burning, when all the fallas are burned to the ground. So much going on–no wonder it defies my attempts to get it neatly bundled and delivered to you.
Still, I do what I can do. Yesterday El Guapo and I spent several hours gathering impressions and taking lots of pictures. Below are some glimpses of what we saw.
Gathering for a photo before parading off to the Ofrenda de las Flores.
In these large fallas there is so much going on that it’s hard to take in. Here’s the large view of a christening (with lots of allegorical meaning that went over my head)
And here’s a detail that’s under the parasol you can see in the lower part of the last picture:
This was one of our favorites:
It’s an ABCs of artisans (luckily, the Valencian word for chocolate begins with X). The details were astounding.
This fierce Chinese dragon keeps watch from its perch between the main train station and the town square. Lower down you can see what I assume is the last emperor of China:
I’m not an expert at reading the messages that fallas are trying to send me, but this next one looks like a commentary on the challenges of parenting.
We found both clowns and mimes:
There were military men of different kinds and eras:
and works of art:
As well as various classical allusions. Zeus shows up a lot:
I think this is Theseus, who escaped the minotaur:
It’s time to switch again from sharing to experiencing. I wonder if we can get fresh street-cooked paella tonight?
*Another difficulty is not unique to Las Fallas, but is shared by anyone who has a camera: it’s the difficulty of making sure that attempts to record an experience don’t prevent you from really having the experience. But that can cut both ways–sometimes the work I do to be able to present an experience actually enriches it for me.
[Images: yours truly, except the paella and La Virgen, which were by El Guapo]