Spanish Culture

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Fiestas

In Spain national religious occasions are celebrated with fiestas, as are local thanksgivings. The people of the town or city dress up and enjoy food and drink in order to celebrate. Everyone is involved and the town practically comes to a stop. These celebrations often involve singing, dancing, fireworks and processions. Fiestas can be for the living or the dead, to appease natural forces or drive out evil spirits. They often include ancient or medieval customs and are based on historical events. Fiestas can last anywhere from a day to two weeks and are a spectacle to behold.

Flamenco is an important and vibrant art of dance and song which occupies an important role in Spanish culture and particularly in the culture of Andalucia. In order to find flamencos pure forms, especially cante jondo (deep song), you will need either a bar where flamenco is sung (un bar donde se cunta flamenco) or flamenco club (peña flamenco). A flamenco show (tablao flamenco) which is more commercial can be found in some larger Andalucian cities and tourist resorts. It is also possible in late spring and summer, in the south, to discover local festivals (ferias) where a version of flamenco song and dance is performed called sevillana.

Bullfighting

Advertised on posters in bars or on the streets bullfights can be with four to six year old bulls with senior Matadors (corrida de torres) or with younger bulls and junior Matadors (corrida de novillos).

La Plaza de torros is the bull ring. When buying tickets the distinction between seating is based on those in the sun and those in the shade. Tickets in the sun are by far the cheaper for obvious reasons and also that most of the activity occurs on the shaded side of the ring. Renting a cushion is a good idea as the seats are far from comfortable being made from concrete, brick or stone.

In an average event six bulls are fought, these bulls are a breed raised on specialist ranches – they are quiet in a herd in a field but transform once isolated and in enclosed spaces to a fearsome creature. Each team, three perform throughout the spectacle, consists of a Matador, three Banderilleros and two Picadores. The Matador is the killer. Matadors perform in order of seniority based on registration date. The most senior Matador fights the first and fourth bull and so on. Banderilleros are the Matadors foot assistants, they help the Matador by using their capes and sticking coloured sticks (banderillas) into the bull. The Picadores are mounted on horses which are padded heavily and are armed with a lance which they stab the bull with.

The entry of the bull into the arena is signalled by the president with a white handkerchief, to the sound of trumpets. A good bull will charge straight out and attack anything in sight. If he paws the ground before attacking he is not as ferocious as popular image would have us believe, he is in fact threatening without wanting to charge.

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