Getting ready for Las Fallas, 2018

fallas poster 2018

 

We’re making our way through our fifth Fallas season* in Valencia, and I still struggle to figure out the best way to get my arms around it all to be able to present it to you. While I’m getting my strategy ready, I’ll share some photographs of preparations by some folks who are right in the thick of it all.

Every year in the city at least 350 neighborhood groups build or commission Fallas† sculptures that must be in place (in their designated street or intersection) by the end of March 15th, the day of the Plantá. Each neighborhood has a Casal Faller (clubhouse of the fallas group), but that doesn’t seem to be where fallas are built. At various of these Casal Fallers we’ve seen dance lessons happening, watched bands gathering, smelled paella cooking, heard a LOT of noise emanating, but haven’t seen construction progressing.

Last week we took a long bike ride out to the Cuitat Fallera on the outskirts of the city, home to some of the warehouses where fallas are built, hoping to catch some glimpses.

 

Valencian map showing the Ciutat Fallera

We live down by the Platja La Malvarrosa, about 9 km away.

 

Near the Museo del Artista Fallero, we began to see this guy next to doorways. He’s on each plaque identifying a workshop:

Tile plaque marking a falla workshop

None of the artists we talked with were dressed like this; jeans and sweatshirts predominated. “Gremio Artesano” means artisans guild.

 

A stack of Styrofoam awaiting transformation

Styrofoam is one of the main components of most fallas sculptures, so there’s a lot of it around.

 

Rooftop storage in Ciutat Fallera

We discovered some molds stored away on the roof of one warehouse, and wished we could see more detail.

Though most of the warehouse doors were closed, we were able to get a peek at a few things, like this figure, and an already decorated flame.

 

seated ninot, plus flame sculpture

Fire is a frequent theme, which isn’t surprising, as everything is destined to burn down.

Other components were outside on the sidewalks.

crowching politician

We don’t know any of the politicians that are frequently caricatured, but we are beginning to recognize them.

 

rack of feet

El Guapo came upon this rack of miscellaneous feet.

 

large chickens

Giant chickens

 

School children visiting a workshop

We weren’t the only ones hoping to see inside the workshops.

We happened upon the workshop where the Falla Municipal is being built, the one that will be placed in the main city square. A TV reporter was being filmed, so we didn’t go in. Here’s the model of what it will eventually look like:

falla municipal model

Apologies for the image quality–furtive photos aren’t always the best.

 

Fallas-in-progress weren’t the only things to see in the Ciutat Fallera. We came to the end of one street and found a couple of policia. I asked what brought them, and they gestured toward a largish gathering of falleras in full costume.

circle of falleras

The falleras’ large skirts limit how close together they can stand, so a conversational group is shaped into a sort of flower.

 

group of falleras

Making adjustments to a complicated coiffure

The young falleras were remarkably patient with the long wait. I suppose they’re used to it. (I don’t even want to speculate on how long it takes to achieve the signature hairdo.)

falleritas

 

falleras heading off to the Artesan museum

They finally headed off to the back entrance of the Museo del Artista Fallero.

I’m sure that over the next week or so the falleras will be getting in and out of those complicated costumes a lot. I don’t envy them that task.

We’re coming down to the wire now–time for late nights and finishing touches. Tomorrow is the Plantá!

 

*As I’ve noted elsewhere, it’s hard to pinpoint the beginning of something that never really ends. But for our purposes, the publicly accessible parts of Las Fallas get going on the morning of the last Sunday in February; the huge sculptures are “planted” in place on March 15th, followed by a fever pitch of activities for several days, and then everything burns to the ground during the night of March 19th.

†If it seems like I just can’t keep my spelling straight, sometimes calling it Las Fallas, other times Les Falles, know that it’s a Castellano/Valenciano thing. In fact, if you’re a Spanish speaker and something looks off to you, assume that whatever-it-is is in Valencian.

 

[Images: fallas.com, google maps, El Guapo and Yours Truly]

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