Sociology Index

Social Customs And Traditions In Spain

Social Customs And Traditions, Books On Customs And Traditions

Known among Spain's folkloristical traditions are certainly Flamenco and bullfights. Bullfights you will find indeed throughout the country, the most popular event perhaps being the "Running of Bulls" during the Sanfermines in Pamplona.

Flamenco, on the other hand, is the musical tradition in the country's south, in particular in Andalusia. That is where you have to move to see and listen first rate dancing and guitar playing. In April takes place Feria de Abril, in Seville, an entire week of singing and dancing and trying that great Sherry wine, those delicious tasty snacks called "Tapas" and more Sherry wine.

Another most popular event of religious origin is El Rocio, a traditional pilgimship to the village El Rocio in the province of Huelva, in May. This pilgrimship anyhow is not too solemn and serious, Flamenco and wine being indispensable components. Follow the thousands who each year travel there and have yourself a ball.

Other outstanding Fiesta are "Las Fallas de San José" in Valencia, in March, the city becomes the scenery of an enormous party with lots of good mood and fireworks. In San Sebastian during February, La Tamburrada takes place. Madrid has its Fiesta, "San Isidro", in May.

Carnival is popular in all the country, the best is in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, but if you are at the peninsula, Cadiz and Sitges are the places to go.

The festival of San Fermin is by far the best known event taking place in Pamplona. TV-spectators in all the world are surprised, impressed or shocked each year when they watch the spectacle of bulls running through the streets of the town and hundreds of young men, usually dressed in traditional white shirts and red belts, ahead of them. Taking this challenge frequently ends in blood and tears. Hemingway was deeply impressed by Pamplona's Sanfermines, as by the tradition of bullfighting in general, and reports on it in several of his books. The way through the town leads to the bullring, where in the evening of the same day are celebrated some of the most important bullfights of all the season, with the very best toreros.

Although the Sanfermines of Pamplona are the best known event of that kind, there are similar festivals in several of the villages around: in Tudela from July, 24th to 28th, in Estella from the first Saturday in August, in Tafalla from August, 15th to 20th, and in Sanguesa from September, 11th to 17th.

Another very interesting tradition in the province is the "Ceremonia del Tributo de las tres Vacas", in Roncal valley, on July, 13th. A contract from 1375 obligates the inhabitants of the french Baretous valley to pay an annual tribute in form of three cows to the people of Piedra San Martín. The ceremony is executed by the town-mayors, in medieval gowns.

On May, 25th takes place a festival of traditional regional dances, called Baile de la Era, in Estella.

On June, 24th, pilgrims of all the region come together in a cave close to the Hermitage of San Juan de Xar, in Yanci, to wash themselves in the water of its three springs. Illnesses are said to be cured by that in a miraculous way.

Flamenco is a genuine Spanish art, and to be more exact an genuine Southern Spanish art. It exists in three forms: Cante, the song, Baile, the dance, and Guitarra, guitar playing.

The first time Flamenco is reported on in literature is in the "Cartas Marruecas" of Cadalso, in 1774. Its cradle most probably was where, between 1765 and 1860, the first Flamenco-schools were created: Cádiz, Jerez de la Frontera and Triana (Seville).
In this epoch Flamenco dance started to have its firm position in the ballrooms. Early Flamenco seems to have been purely vocal, accompanied only by rhythmical clapping of hands, toque de palmas. It was left to dedicated composers, as Julián Arcas, to introduce guitar playing.

During its Golden Age (1869-1910) Flamenco was developed in the epoch's numerous music cafés (cafés cantantes) to its definitive form. Also the more serious forms expressing deep feelings (cante jondo) dates from then.

Flamenco dance arrived to its climax, being the major attraction for the public of those cafés cantantes. Guitar players featuring the dancers increasingly gained a reputation.

The time from 1910 to 1955 Flamenco singing is marked by the ópera flamenca, with an easier kind of music such as fandangos and cantes de ida y vuelta. The latter clearly showed South American influences.
From 1915 on Flamenco shows were organized and performed all over the world. Anyhow, not everybody was enchanted with that development and intellectuals such as Falla organized 1922 in Granada a contest to promote "authentical" cante jondo.

1955 started a sort of Flamenco Renaissance, the great performer Antonio Mairena being its key figure. Outstanding dancers and soloists soon made their way out of the small tablaos, successors to the early cafés cantantes, to the great theaters and concert houses. It was now that guitar players acquired a great protagonism, and their playing arrived to masterity.

Actual Flamenco frequently shows influences of other kinds of music, as Jazz, Salsa, Bossa Nova, etc. Also Flamenco dance has changed, specially female dancers try to rather showcase their temperament than artistry. The Flamenco guitar that formerly was just featuring the dancers arrived to be a soloistical art form, great virtuoso Paco de Lucia being the pioneer of that development.

Mass medias have brought Flamenco to the world stage, but deeply it has always been and will remain an intimate kind of music. You have not listened authentical Flamenco if not in a juerga with a small group of friends, at midnight somewhere in the South of Spain, when there is nothing around but the voice, the guitar and the body of a dancer moving in the moonlight.

Origins and History of Bullfight
Bullfighting is certainly one of the best known, although at the same time most polemical Spanish popular customs.
This Fiesta could not exist without the Toro Bravo, a species of bull of an archaical race that is only conserved in Spain. Formerly this bull's forebears, the primitive urus, were spread out over wide parts of the world. Many civilizations revered to them, the bull-cultus at the Greek island Creta is quite well-known. The Bible reports on sacrifices of bulls in honour to the divine justice.

The origins of the Plaza, bullring, probably are not the Roman amphitheaters but the Celt-Iberian temples where those ceremonies were held. In the province of Soria, close to Numancia, one of them is conserved and it is supposed that there bulls were sacrificed to the Gods.
While the religious cultus to the bull goes back to Iberians, it were the Greek and Roman influences that converted it into a spectacle.
During the middle-ages it was a diversion for the aristocracy to torear on horse's back. That was called suerte de cańas. In 18th century this tradition was more or less abandoned and the poorer population invented the bullfight by foot. Francisco Romero was a key-figure in laying the rules for that new sport.
For its fans La Corrida is of course rather an art than a sport, not to speak about the challenge of the man fighting against the beast. It is an archaic tradition that has survived in this country, just as the Toro Bravo has done.

What a Corrida is about
If you are not familiar to Corridas, you will find here listed chronologically everything that happens. A Corrida starts with the paseillo, with everybody involved in the bullfight entering the ring and presenting himself to the public. Two Alguacilillos, on horse's back, direct themselves to the presidency and symbolically ask for the keys to the "puerta de los toriles". Behind that door there are the bulls. With the door being opened and the first bull entering the ring the spectacle starts.