This past weekend, I along with 4 friends from Skidmore and Tufts traveled to Valencia, Spain for the annual festival of Las Fallas. The name “Las Fallas” refers to the wooden monuments that burn on the final day of the festival. While the main attractions are the large, statues, every day there are parades celebrating Saint Joseph, a saint whom the festival commemorates. It is difficult to convey the feeling of the festival, but I think the Spanish describe it best when they say, “Es una locura.”
I arrived in Valencia on Friday at 2pm. I was tired from the five hour bus trip, but excited by all the new sites and by the constant crackle of fireworks. The city is located roughly three kilometers from the coast and one can sense its proximity. Tall palm trees wave in the wind and seagulls caw overhead. Valencia is a mix between old and new. In certain parts, cobblestones line the narrow streets and in other places, taxi cabs speed by on large three lane avenues. During the weekend, in the center of the city where the festival takes place, the only traffic is pedestrian. And boy is it traffic. All throughout the day and night, large crowds bustled past our AirBnB, a quaint second-floor apartment, located just North of the city center. In other circumstances, I would complain about the noise. But in this case, it filled the apartment with energy.
Each day we explored the city, marveling at the Fallas, each more incredible and colorful than the next. One depicted an African safari, with elephants, hippos and safari guides. Another showed an enormous dragon hovering over an Asian prince who was surrounded by members of his royal cabinet. There was one Falla that escapes words. Standing roughly 30 meters high, the Falla, on one side, depicted acrobats performing various extraordinary feats. On another side it reproduced various political events that occurred in the past year. The last side depicted various
sexual deviants performing outrageous and vulgar acts. I witnessed many children fighting past the shielding hands of their parents as the parents tried to usher their children to the next Falla.
At night the city came alive. I admit that’s cliche, but it really did! 10 different DJ booths, dance floors, lights and all, were scattered around the city. The booths were like little Mecas that attracted crowds of 100-150 people to their lights and music. We would spend an hour dancing at one booth and then wander, until we heard the unmistakable reggaeton rhythm once again. And so passed Friday and Saturday night.
Sunday night, everything burned. Crowds had been coming into the city all day to prepare for the final night of festivities. At 9pm, the first small Fallas began to burn. Every 20 minutes new Fallas were lit, growing larger as the night progressed. In many of the squares, fireworks lit up the sky, signalling the start of a burn. Crowds surrounded each of the statues while the artists stood at a distance inside, watching their year long masterpieces reduced to ash in a matter of minutes. To describe the burning of Las Fallas would not do them justice. It is a spectacle that one must witness. Luckily for you, the artists have already begun their work, because next year’s festival is less than a year away.