August 16, 2002

8/16/02 Hacinas

Watching the sun rise with my peña

Well, it's 8am and I'm getting ready for bed. I can't think of the last time I stayed up to watch the sun rise.

This morning, I finished my first full week of immersion Spanish. I understand more than I speak. And I get real nervous when talking to someone too. Next week, Amparo says she will as José and Nati to only speak Spanish. No English translations. Seems I might be improving their English more than learning my Spanish. Oops.

Wow, the Queen & her Attendants!

After another lunch at Nati's mother's house, we joined another parade of peñas to the Plaza del Toros. Two rejoneadores would face four individual bulls on horseback. It was similar as with the matadores, but the degree of control over the horses with a charging bull was remarkable, sometimes only using his feet for control. One difference in the event, was that the rejoneadore placed two banderellas at a time. And to increase the difficulty, each successive pair got shorter, requiring him to lean in closer to the bull to place them. The killing thrust was done with a sort of long spear.

After the roar of the crowd demanded it, one rejoneadore was awarded both of the bull's ears and the tail for his skill. At one point in the bullfight, he was able to lean over and place his elbow on the forehead of the charging bull while directing his galloping horse with no hands.

Bullfighting on horseback

We left the bullfight arena in another parade of peñas back to the plaza. Compared to yesterday's rain, today was marvelous.

Not sure if Javier likes this parade

The evening was spent dancing and singing. The peña would proceed the band as we paraded another few blocks to another bar. There we might sing and dance for the patron's entertainment, or just sit and talk while we caught our breath. Some twenty minutes later, we'd get up and do it all again to another bar.

My understanding is that each of the peñas is different in how they approach the festival. Peña 'El Alboroto' spends more money on the band and our meals, and less on alcohol than some of the other peñas. The band is as much fun for us as it is entertaining to the people we pass by. It was not uncommon to see an older couple begin to dance, or for someone to join in our singing as we paraded past their homes.

I was part of the crew that prepared the hall for dinner tonight. I have really felt a part of this peña and not just as an observer. The peña is usually only together once a year at this fiesta, but they have been trying to organize activities throughout the year. The problem is that Salas is a summer town. It usually only has 2000 inhabitants, but during the summer months it swells to 5000. Many of the peña members grew up in Salas and still have family here, but they live and work elsewhere.

Tonight was a little different. Aftr a long meal of eating, drinking and talking, we again took to the streets to parade from bar to bar. But when it was finally time for the band to be finished for the evening, we just began dancing at a concert being held in the plaza. The last song finished at 5am. Ah, but we were not done quite yet. My small group of Nati, Cristina, Anna, Gema, Pedro and Alberto found a quiet bar to rest as we waited for the sun to come up.

At about 7am, we found ourselves at the peña's small headquarters, complete with pictures of past fiestas on the wall. Here we feasted on glasses of real melted chocolate. One of those present was Rubén, a college-age member of the peña. He's kind of a fun and crazy guy, just a little bit different than the rest, but in a good way. His English was very good despite a long night of drinking and dancing. You know a person is pretty fluent with a language when they can make jokes in that language. We were all laughing so hard, it hurt.

A very tired Jim finally fell into bed a little after 8am.