I have been behind in my blog posts because I have been preoccupied with the beach, class, and exploring Spain.
At the end of June, Alicante had their Festival of Juan (aka Las Hogueras). This festival celebrates the coming of the summer solstice. It started on June 19th and went until the 24th; however, it actually started a couple days early this year because Alicante is trying to compete with Valencia’s festival, which is the week before Las Hogueras.
There was a giant fireworks show a couple days before the 19th in Plaza de Los Luceros, which is the center of Alicante. Holy cow! Spain knows how to put on a fireworks show. There were people everywhere! At one point, the fireworks were so loud/strong that it practically knocked me off my feet and I had to watch in a crouched position.
Basically everyday for a week, there was a giant parade. The majority of the parades consisted of volunteers wearing the traditional Alicante clothing. Each neighborhood picks the “most beautiful” woman and little girl. Then each queen and princess has their own court of about two or three other girls. My favorite parade one where are the different neighborhoods wore different costumes. Some were dressed like Native Americans, flowers, Chinese people, and many other things. People had shopping carts filled with ice, beer, and wine. While they marched, they drank and had a good, ole time. I had a front row seat! It was hard to get good pictures because of all the motion and movement of the people.
Shopping cart filled with ice and drinks-ha!
Part of the Native American group
Getting ready to march
“Most beautiful” girl of her neighborhood
On June 19th, every day at exactly 2:00pm there were mascletas in the center of the city. Mascletas are fireworks that only make the boom noises. Again, crowds and crowds of people everywhere watching the mascletas (in reality, there’s not much to watch–I was able to hear them from my apartment).
The next day at midnight, there was a lights and fireworks show in a different plaza close to my apartment. Basically they shot fireworks, choreographed to music, off the top of a seven story store. I was so close that the firework ashes fell on my hands and hair (I actually got burned!). A little too close for comfort for my liking. I was super tense while watching the show because I was too busy dodging the firework debris! After the firework show, I walked around and locked at all the ninots (giant doll-like statues that they burn at the end of the festival). There was over 180, so I obviously did not see them all.
See how close the fireworks were!?
beginning of the light and firework show
My favorite Ninot
Up close picture of the 1st place Ninot
On the 21st, there was another parade called “Desfile de la Ofrenda de Flores.” In this parade, people wearing the traditional clothing marched to the cathedral to place their flower in front of it.
Finished product (yes, that is all made out of flowers)
On Monday of the festival, I still had school. But the next two days, we did not have school because those were the most important days of the festival. Most of the festivities take place really late at night, so it was nice to be able to sleep in. However, I barely got any sleep during the festival because my neighborhood would begin partying and playing music at 10:00am. It was rather annoying!
After staying out till the wee hours of the morning Monday night, I took a long siesta on Tuesday. Tuesday night, there was another parade. I only caught a glance at this parade because I went to the bull fight instead. During Las Hogueras, the best matadors in all of Spain come to Alicante’s arena. I’m here to experience Spain’s culture right? So in my opinion, it was necessary to go to a bull fight, even if I do not agree with it. It was definitely a horrifying experience, but I was able to stay for the whole thing. Afterwards, I was barely able to eat my dinner because I lost my appetite…
Tuesday night I stayed up ill 5:00am! Every night during Hogueras, each neighborhood has an outside party called barracas. You don’t have to be part of the neighborhood to go to one. The barracas have DJs, strobe lights, drinks, food, and of course, LOTS of people. So much fun!
After sleeping till noon on Wednesday, my host mom made me churros con chocolate for breakfast since it was the last day of the festival. Then I went and watched the last mascleta. It was the best (and loudest) one I had seen! I took my siesta at the beach. At midnight is when all craziness happens. It begins with a “monumental palmera” at the Castle. This is a giant firework that looks like a palm tree. After that, the burning of the ninots begins! They don’t all burn at once (that would be craziness). I think they burn like four or five at a time. The first one I saw was on the Explanada by the beach.They shoot more fireworks right before each ninot burns. I was practically at the front of the crowd for the first ninot, so the fire was extremely hot. While it is burning, firemen spray the palm trees and nearby buildings with water so they don’t catch on fire. You are supposed to yell derogatory comments or bad hand signals at the firemen so that they spray you with water. I was drenched! It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience. Thank god I wore my bathing suit underneath my clothes because I was soaked and freezing! I also watched the first place ninot burn too, but I was toward the back of the crowd (this way I was able to take pictures).
Palmera Firework (can’t see the castle in the pic)
I went to bed at 3:00am…needless to say class the next morning was a struggle…