We arrived Monday in Valencia in mid-afternoon and couldn't locate the hotel. We
were in the right area, but circled the wrong blocks. We asked at a police station
and they sent us over two blocks and down three. It is a nice hotel with a marble
bathroom. We are on the fifth floor at the back so it is relatively quiet.
On Tuesday we went downtown and walked around, Las Fallas is not quite started yet. Most
of the big Fallas are being finished. Fallas are small (2' high) to huge (3 or 4
stories high) wood and papier-mâché statues, often caricatures or satires of people
or events. Each neighborhood has a Fallas Association. They have their clubhouse
where they meet and, I think, they do other works to support their neighborhood. But
the big thing they do is build a Falla. They work all year designing and building
it to be assembled in the square. Depending on the affluence and political pull
of the association the Falla may be big and in a main plaza or small and in an intersection
in their neighborhood. According to a book we bought there are well over 600 Fallas,
of all sizes, and the biggest one cost over 600,000 Euros (about $750,000). All
together the run nearly 9 million Euros (almost 11 million US dollars). All so they
can be burned after displaying them for 5 days.
The association also has it's Fallera and Fallero. This is the woman and man that
represents the association. Then there is the queen of Falleras elected from the
court. The queen and her court can spend upwards of $100,000 on their outfits. The
format is very stylized and although the colors may vary the hairstyle and clothes
all follow the same pattern.
Every afternoon in the main plaza in front of the city hall there is a fireworks
display, called La Mascleta. that literally shakes the ground. Some of the explosions
are so loud and forceful that you feel the concussion on your chest as the air outside
your body hits you with a physical force. The fireworks are primarily explosives
and not many skyrockets because it is a daytime show. Several thousand firecrackers
of various sizes are hung on a grid of ropes about eight feet off the ground and
fused to go off sequentially. The whole show last about 5 minutes during which a
couple of tons of gunpowder explode.
There is a constant noise from firecrackers being set off by the general public,
mostly children, some as young as three years old. We are talking some sparklers,
but mostly explosive firecrackers not allowed where we live in the US. Some are
just little paper-wrapped poppers that pop when thrown against something hard. We
saw one father teaching his toddler how to throw them. The little boy couldn't quite
get the throwing motion and the opening of his hand timed to throw them down into
the ground, his went up first, but popped anyway when they hit, you just didn't know
where they were going to land. Many of the fireworks are the slender Chinese style,
about 1/4" in diameter and an inch long, with a fuse to light and a louder bang. These
are done one at a time, not in a string like the Chinese do. Then there are larger
ones that will set off car alarms with a very loud BANG! The teen-agers had the
most fun with these. Once in a while there would be a huge blast, I think from a
Mascleta firecracker. These were so seldom that they probably were illegal. We
were eating dinner at an outside restaurant once when one went off around the corner
from us and set off a bank's alarm system, three cops on motorcycles were there within
about a minute. I once counted off 30 seconds and counted all the bangs from the
firecrackers set off, I got about 50 in the 30 seconds. This was a constant noise
wherever you were.
There were lots of parades. Some large and organized and others when a Falla Association
would dress up, get their band and go around the area. After the judging of the
Fallas, there is a parade of the Associations to pick up the award banners that are
then displayed on the Falla. This takes an entire afternoon and half the night. I
don't think any Falla failed to get some sort of an award.
Another parade was the Folkloric Parade with floats filled with pretty girls in their
fancy Fallera outfits, and marchers and bands in traditional costumes from the groups
A very pretty parade, which was split over two days from 4:00 in the afternoon to
about midnight, was when the Falleras in their fancy outfits bring bouquets of flowers
to a fifty foot high wooden frame of the Virgin and Child.
The men then take the flowers and put them onto the frame forming her dress and
cape. There are thousands of these bouquets needed to finish it. Each Fallera,
whether a baby in a stroller, child, teenager, or adult has a bouquet for the statue.
Lastly there was the Fire Parade. This was a very pagan parade with lots of costumes
as devils, witches, warlocks, dragons, and others. The costumes were fire resistant
Nomex and the participants held Roman Candle style fireworks over their heads, spraying
sparks in all directions, including into the crowds along the roadsides.
At about midnight on the 19th, the last night of Las Fallas, the Fallas are burned,
it's call "La Crema". We decided to finish the festival with the the same Falla
that we started it with, the one around the corner from our hotel, Laurel and Hardy. We
did this partly to avoid the huge crowds that were going to be downtown and partly
because we thought it would make an appropriate match to the start of the festival. After
the Fire Parade we returned to our hotel, rested until nearly 11:00 PM and walked
around the corner to get good places to watch from. Midnight came and went, and
01:00 and they started wrapping the fuses around it. At about 01:30 I asked a man
from the Falla Association and he said we were waiting for the firemen. They arrived
about 02:00 and strung out their hoses. There was another Mascleta first and then
La Crema started about 02:30 and lasted 15 minutes. We got to bed after 03:00.
We got up about 09:00 and left for Portugal via La Mancha.