Category Archives: Art/Culture

Poster for Olvera and Ronda Carnavals

Ronda Today received an email from a very excited local artists today, Alan Pearson, a man whose art is already featured in our artist pages. Alan emailed us to tell us he’d won a competition in Olvera for artwork to be used in the town’s Caranval 2010 poster.

Alan is justifiably pleased to have been selected because he’s made such an effort to integrate into the local community, with many prominent Spaniards in Olvera calling him a friend. As winner, Alan’s painting was selected from 10 submissions, and also won 300€ in prize money.

The artwork selected was a piece painted by Alan a wee while ago, and shows what Carnaval in Olvera might have looked like at the turn of the 20th century. The castle and church in Olvera can be seen towering above the townsfolk as they enjoy Carnaval in the streets of this beautiful little town only 30 minutes away from Ronda.

In Alan’s painting you can see a group of people playing a traditional game of Cancarro where a pottery jug is thrown around the circle, and behind them a swing setup with a rope suspended across the street.

Carnaval in Ronda is also scheduled for February, and below you can see Ronda’s Carnaval poster designed by José María Sabater, known locally as ‘Chemi’, a popular computer design artist.

Carnaval is a time of great celebration in Spain, and whilst not as flamboyent as those in Brazil they are certainly still very enjoyable. Look out for grand processions, street parties, and side show alley at the feria grounds in Ronda.

In the streets children will be eating candy floss, holding aloft balloons, singing Carnaval songs, and playing games. All told, Carnaval is a time when Spaniards let their hair down and party.

Poster for Ronda’s Semana Santa 2010

Edit: You can get the itinerary for Ronda’s 2010 Semana Santa processions here.

The poster advertising Semana Santa 2010 in Ronda has been announced by the Hermandades del Huerto, Prendimiento y Gitanos, showing a photograph of one of the icons inside Ronda’s many churches.

Clothed in a red tunic with gold leaf, and supported by an angel, the float has already won the hearts and minds of Ronda’s Christians many of whom are delighted to see it featured on the poster used to promote the Holy Week in Ronda.

Semana Santa Poster 2010
Semana Santa Poster 2010
The poster was designed by Jesus Lopez and Ana Belen Cabrera who took the photo during Semana Santa 2009.

This year sees Easter fall between the 15th and 24th of April, though the official calendar of events for the week has yet to be finalised.

Holy Week, known as Semana Santa in Spanish, is a week of religious processions and fiestas, and is a bigger celebration than Christmas. Through Semana Santa each of the Catholic Brotherhoods of Ronda host their own processions, and most pass through Plaza del Socorro to receive blessings from senior priests in Ronda.

Also in 2010, the new Museum of the Fraternities will open in the old court building on Calle Armiñan, thus making 2010 an important year for Semana Santa festivities in Ronda. The Holy Week festivities in Ronda are amongst the most important in Andalucía, so the museum has been described by Luis Candelas, president of the Association of Fraternities and Brotherhoods as a welcome addition to Ronda’s initiatives.

Los Reyes Parade in Ronda 5th January

In the English speaking world we know the 6th of January as the day of Epiphany, the day when the three wise men arrived from the orient bearing gifts for the baby Jesus. In the Christian calendar an important day, but usually not celebrated, and certainly not a public holiday.

In Spain this isn’t the case. The 5th and 6th of January together were traditionally bigger causes for celebration than Christmas Day. Some traditional families still consider the 6th to be the real Christmas celebration. Here it isn’t called the day of Epiphany, in Spain, the 6th of January is el Día de los Reyes, the three kings day.

Thousands of Rondeños braved the cold weather and occasional drizzle to watch los Reyes as they and their friends paraded through the streets of Ronda, beginning in the square near the Almocabar gates in the Barrio de San Francisco, then winding their way through Calle Armiñan, before turning onto La Bola, Calle Capitan Ramón y Cajal, and then Calle Pozo before finishing at the la Merced church.

Children all over Spain write letters to their favourite of the three wise men, Melchor, Gaspar, or Baltasar telling them what they want for to receive. The parade on night of the 5th is a time when los Reyes arrive in town to distribute the presents the children have asked for, so of course the parade is very well attended.

This year los Reyes threw tens of thousands of sweets, hard fruit flavoured sweets, and softer caramel toffees. The crowds got in to the swing of things shouting ‘Caramelo, Caramelo’ at every float that passed.

Cardboard cutouts of a king were thrown from the first float, whilst the second threw confetti. By the time the sweets were thrown everyone was holding aloft their cardboard king, though you’d be forgiven for not recognising a soul with the amount of confetti covering them.

After the sweets came the plastic eye patches, more sweets, and then more sweets, and still the crowd were chanting ‘Caramelo, Caramelo’.

Each year a different barrio hosts the parade, so of course the route changes from year to year as well. The brotherhoods of the Barrio de San Francisco put on a great parade this year, with many of our young Rondeños favourite characters in attendance.

The morning of the 6th Ronda’s children will be eagerly rushing to the door where they left their shoes the night before, one pair for each child in the house. Good children get presents, naughty children get a lump of coal, though we suspect nobody will receive a lump of coal this year.

Our photos were taken with a phone camera so aren’t fantastic, but on the other hand we were there to enjoy the parade with friends and family. Why not plan a trip to Ronda next Christmas and join us for the parade.

Is the Spanish Bullfight Dying?

“¡Abolición!” shouted the banners and placards. Abolition! Adorned with drawings of youths on all fours with barbs in their backs spurting blood they were held aloft by about thirty protesters on the Tajo Bridge in Ronda, fifty kilometres from Marbella in eastern Spain.

“Abolish the Bullfight”, they cried with Ronda’s most important fight of the year beginning in a few hours. The protesters, mostly young Spaniards, were watched by a squad of Riot Police and bemused passers by.

‘Is the bullfight dying?” I asked Paco, a regular in the Bar Maestro, a small place, serving some of the best tapas in town. Named after Antonio Ordóñez, a native son, and many say, the greatest matador ever, his loyal admirers foregathered there with other aficionados of the bulls.

‘No, the bullfight is not dying,’ said Paco banging down his glass on the counter. ‘You cannot get a ticket for the corrida this afternoon, did you know that?’ Paco glared at me and muttered under his breath. I was mortified. How could I re-establish my bona fides with this much respected man?

‘I was fortunate to see el Maestro fighting five times in the 60’s,’ I said. He looked sideways at me. Other heads nodded, voices approved. But Paco raised his glass to some memory of is own.

‘Read “Vanguardia’s” report,’ one called Pepe said quietly, ‘72% of Spaniards has no interest.’

The figures were dramatic. Over the past thirty years interest in the bullfight has fallen from a high of 55% in 1971 to 46% in 1980 to today’s figure of 28%.

Then Rafa, the owner, made a joke which I think went like this: ‘What do the bulls in Pamplona pray for before the Running?’

‘Please Lord, let me catch a gringo.’ Even Paco laughed at that. Paqui, Rafa’s wife brought out small dishes of paella. Good humour, never far away, was restored. I was honoured to be included by these aficionados.

“Death in the Afternoon”, Hemingway’s classic on the bullfight, introduced many of us to it.  This ritual of danger and death, bull running or fighting is central to most annual ferias in towns, villages and cities throughout Spain. Pamplona in July, Ronda in September and Seville at Easter are the most popular.

This year in Ronda the annual September shindig was in full exuberant swing, the town in an uproar.  Crowds milled about; flamenco and the whirling, laughing music of the Sevillana dance blared from temporary and ear-splitting loudspeakers outside the bars. Girls and women of all ages twirled, arms twisting sensuously, fingers coiling, heads thrown back, in dramatic pose. Men and boys clapped the rhythm, shouting ‘¡Olés!’.

Goyesca Ladies en route to the Plaza de Toros
Goyesca Ladies en route to the Plaza de Toros

Ronda, the birth place of the modern bullfight, celebrates the Goyescas, a festival of bullfighting so called as the participants parade in the garb of Goya’s era two centuries ago. Horse drawn carriages with decorous young girls in colourful finery, process through the streets.  Men and youths in the Andalusian style of tight trousers, waistcoats and Córdoba hats stalk about on tall horses before the fights begin.

About the bullfight, V.S.Pritchett, in “The Spanish Temper” wrote: “The Spaniard never lacks the courage to make the heroic gesture.  The bull is admired, almost worshipped, as the horse is in Ireland.  He is admired because he is great and capable of fury, and the Spaniard requires that furious force against which to display his singularity – the most precious of his possessions – and his courage.  Always the extremist, he likes to test his valour and his whole personality to the utmost.”

‘The bullfight is not a sport,’ said our friend Bosco back in the bar, ‘because the outcome is foreseen. It is a ritual,’ he added, believers eyes shining. ‘Primitive, pagan, maybe barbaric. ‘But,’ he concluded, ‘At no stage in the fight is it the object to inflict pain, although it is inflicted.’

Like reading Macbeth before going to the theatre, an understanding of the bullfight beforehand enables one to comprehend if not approve.  Sadly many of them descend into a crude despatch of the animal, the bullfighter being booed by the crowd. But if one experiences, as I did, the gut wrenching, frightening emotion of a great matador’s performance, as Ordóñez delivered to spellbound audiences it will remain etched in one’s mind forever.

Cayetano's Armani Suit
Cayetano's Armani Suit

It costs over €100 000 to stage a corrida with a top matador’s name. They command huge fees and have expensive lifestyles. Cayetano Rivera Ordóñez, the Maestro’s grandson, appeared this year in a Suit of Lights, as their costume is called, made by Armani. A whiff of decadence, a foretaste of the fall?

The rivals for the public’s Euros are football and basketball. Spain are the current European Champions in both sports. Tennis and golf have attractive role models also.

Nobody in the bar had been prepared to challenge Paco. But the newspaper’s figures would not leave us. None of us was under fifty-five.  And so it is throughout Spain. The corrida is dying with its ageing followers. No doubt in the midst of the recession, they were thinking of the over 100,000 people employed in the industry and the turnover of 1, 5 billion Euros a year.

Despite the two thousand year old tradition going back to Roman times, leading opponents of bullfighting recently took their cause to the Spanish parliament demanding an end to it. Parliament is currently debating a draft law on animal rights. How bullfighting will escape such a charter I do not know. The League Against Cruel Sports is increasingly active. The Spanish public broadcaster, TVE, announced that it will no longer broadcast corridas. Two years ago, Barcelona declared itself an “anti- bullfighting city”. The closure of the last bullring in Catalonia highlights its political ‘independence from Madrid’.

Protestors in Ronda 2009
However, in Madrid and the southern province of Andalusia the plazas are often filled to capacity. Bull fighting is deeply rooted in Andalusia. Like everything else the Andalusians do they do it with passion. It’s as though they had the caps lock key permanently in the ‘on’ position, the stereo at its loudest. It is in this intense, emphatic and above all passionate atmosphere that los toros, the bullfights, persist, its great exponents revered.

But the inevitable is coming. There will be more protesters. Just as Picasso and Hemmingway supported the bullfight, new names will support the Abolitionists.

My wife, Verne, unsympathetic to the corrida, asked the inevitable question. ‘12,000 bulls a year die in 2000 corridas?’ I replied. ‘And as many as 100 men are killed.’ Her silence said it all. ‘But,’ I said, ‘expect marketing innovations. 100,000 jobs will be defended.’

I see in my mind’s eye a dusty road in Spain trodden by a gaunt figure in rusty armour on a spindly steed followed by a podgy fellow astride a donkey.  One almost sees the white sails of windmills that will surely attract the attention of that wandering knight. For it is none other than my demented hero, Don Quixote de la Mancha and Sancho Panza.  Is it the youngsters on the bridge who are tilting at windmills in the battle of the bulls? Or Paco in the Bar Maestro?

The Author:

Article written by Bearnard O’Riain, a published author who has written an autobiography ‘Running to Stand Still‘, an account of his years as an angry and abusive husband. These days Bearnard runs the MURAL support group which helps other men recover from abusing their spouses and families in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs, including the infamous Alexandra township.