August 14, 2002

8/14/02 Hacinas

Fiesta de San Roque starts

Lessons are going well, I think. Today, Amparo and I had a long conversation and I thought I followed about half of it. Replying to questions has been more difficult. Someday, Amparo and her husband want to build another school in Valencia. She says that after my travels across Northern Spain, I need to return someday to see the South. Maybe I'll be their first returning student at the new school.

After the lesson, we went down to the plaza for the official beginning of the Fiesta de San Roque. The plaza was filled with hundreds of peña members, each with their distinct clothing colors. All usually wore white t-shirts and pants. The usual uniform was a shirt, worn most of time like a skirt, and a scarf. Nati grew up in Salas and was one of the founding members of Peña 'El Alboroto' (alboroto means excitement) years ago. But she skipped a few years because of her new life with José and then the coming of their son. But now that Javier is older, they felt the time right to get back involved.

Grand Opening Ceremonies

The peña is a social group mostly only active during the festival. Each peña is distinct in how it approaches the festival. Some reminded me of partying fraternities, but Peña 'El Alboroto' was more a family affair. I'm guessing it had about 100 members including children. Peña 'El Alboroto' has wanted to schedule more activities throughout the year but it is difficult because many live elsewhere, coming back to Salas in the summer to visit family and participate in the festival. As you can imagine, Salas increases in size dramatically during festival.

The peña controls it's own membership. Because Nati and her family, I have been allowed to become a new member of the peña. This is a very rare privilage to see a festival from the 'inside' instead of just as a spectator. So, I'm now wearing my blue and white striped shirt. Most of the members have a blue scarf, but I'm wearing a maroon scarf from the Mayor's office.

After a few speeches, one by Victor, Nati's older brother and also Mayor of Salas, a rocket was shot off to signal the beginning of four days of the fiesta. A lot of the younger crowd shouted and danced, spraying champagne everywhere. It didn't take long in the afternoon sun to drive everyone back home for lunch.

Various Peña Colors

Today was a large family dinner because it was Javier's birthday - 3 years old. Besides Nati's mother, two of her brothers Javi and Salva were there, as well as her sister Geme with her husband Pedro with Alberto a friend from Madrid. Javier is at that age where he loves the attention. And being the only grandchild in the family, he's guaranteed all the attention he can handle. After presents and a wonderful ice cream cake, it was time for Javier to take a much needed nap.

Javier turns 3!

The family were very encouraging in my participating in the conversation around the table, in Spanish of course. But like many family gatherings around the world, everyone was talking at once. When you only understand a few words, it's very hard when too many people are speaking at the same time to understand anything.

We all tried to catch a little shuteye because the night planned to be a long one. Around 8pm, we all loaded into the car and headed back to Salas.

The parade was made up of majorettes in front, followed by the city's marching band, then the peñas. Most of the peñas had their own band and we danced from one end of town to the other, finally finishing at the plaza.

Peña Alboroto in the parade

From there, with our band playing, the peña danced it's way around town, visiting many bars along the way. We had a couple of large drinks that we passed around while everyone caught their breath. The popular drinks here are combinations: beer and lemon soda, and another is red wine and Coke. Actually not bad drinks in this hot weather. After about fifteen minutes, the band would begin to play, then we'd dance our way to another bar. As you can imagine all this parading around by the individual peñas creates quite a few traffic jams, but most drivers were understanding. After all, it's festival!

Dancing Bar to Bar

We ended up at a community hall where a hundred members of the peña feasted on "el toro", with drinks flowing on, and on. Mostly we were drinking wine and another sweet liquer called Pacharan. All night I continued to meet more people, a lot were cousins of Nati. She said she had too many cousins to count. Everyone was very understanding of my difficulty with Spanish, speaking slowly and using a few English words they knew, so as to include me into the conversations.

Dinner with Peña 'El Alboroto'

The nights rock concert in the plaza didn't even start until almost 2am. After a bit, some of us gravitated to another bar to relax and get away from the noise.

So, I'm sitting here at 3am writing in this journal before I forget any of the day's many parts. Besides class tomorrow, which Nati's entire family thinks is crazy to attempt during festival, we are part of the peñas cooking detail. And I think the bullfights begin tomorrow too. Turns out one of José's cousins is a very good bullfighter.

Got to catch some sleep!