Nearly 9 million euros will go up in smoke on the night of the 19th March
The countdown is under way for the beginning of the Fallas in Valencia, arguably the most important fiestas in the city’s calendar, with over 770 fallas monuments ready to decorate the streets during the festivities before the nine-million-euro investment made in them literally goes up in smoke at the end of the fiestas.
As usual the figures created bear testimony to their creators’ wit, satire, ingenuity and creativity, and more than a million visitors from outside the city are expected to throng to the regional capital.
The main fiestas, which coincide with the feast day of San José, begin in earnest next Saturday, but ever since 1st March the scent of firecrackers has been mingling with the aroma of chocolate and buns from the stalls on the streets, and the city’s congestion has worsened as a result of the marquees and kiosks being set up all over the centre. By 15th March the city centre will have been taken over by the giant figures of the Fallas themselves, initially the children’s monuments and then on Sunday those featured in the main event.
The topics favoured by this year’s Fallas artists continue to include the government’s spending cuts, the economic crisis and political corruption, and indeed one of the cutbacks has been on the Fallas themselves: this year’s total government funding for the figures of 8.7 million euros is one million lower than in 2013. Despite this, though, opposition to central government cutbacks ought to be somewhat alleviated by the fact that this January the government announced that VAT on the fallas figures was to be reduced to 10%, so it is with some relief that the artists are now frantically putting the finishing touches to their creations, and the “falleros” are anxiously awaiting the moment to don their fiesta costumes.
The figures will be on display to the jury which decides prizes for two days, and the fervor and emotion in the city then reaches fever pitch with the floral offerings to the patron saint, the Virgen de los Desamparados, on 17th and 18th March. This year it is once again forecast that over 100,000 devoted falleros will lay their bunch of flowers before the Virgin, and once they have done so the spectacular night of 18th March begins.
On this night, known as La Nit del Foc (the night of fire), a huge firework display prepares for the following day, when on the 19th the purifying flames destroy the papier mâché, wax, wood and styrofoam figures, announcing the arrival of spring.
It’s one of the best known, most spectacular and most visited of all Spain’s fiestas, but for locals it’s not all joy and celebration during Fallas week. The traffic disruption and congestion are horrendous, with over 400 roads being temporarily cut off in order to house 241 officially authorized marquees.
In addition to these there are 152 authorized churros and buñuelos stalls which seem to emerge from the woodwork every March, supplying sustenance to the hordes of visitors determined to see all of the fallas and enjoy the nocturnal partying.
All of this celebrating and eating and drinking takes its toll on the system, and the council is also installing 230 temporary toilets as well as changing the location of seven hundred rubbish containers. Nine hundred smaller wheelie bins are also being added this week as the street traders begin to take over the city, helping to generate increased quantities of litter.
Image: The build-up is underway.Copyrighted. Full or partial reproduction prohibited. Efe Juan Carlos Cárdenas
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