At this time of year in the Comunitat Valenciana it hardly matters what else happens in the fields of politics, economics, sport and culture, there’s only one thing on the minds of the population of the regional capital and many other parts of the region: the Fallas.
Preparations have been under way behind the scenes almost since last year’s festivities ended and the atmosphere on the streets has been building since the start of the month (causing problems for those who have to drive in the city!), but the main events really get under way this Friday. Every day between now and next Wednesday the streets will be adorned by the gigantic temporary statues depicting topical and emblematic tableaux, and the culmination of the celebrations takes place on the last two nights, on the 18th/19th March with the Nit del Foc and on the 19th/20th March with the Cremà, when these figures and tableaux are ceremoniously burnt. For more details of the main events, click here.
There are also smaller Fallas celebrations in many other towns in the province of Valencia, and a few in Castellón (Burriana, Benicarló and Vall de Uxó, for example) and Alicante (including Denia, Calpe, Pego, Benidorm and Elda).
But there are also other things going on in the region, including interesting news for residential tourism on the Costa Blanca Valencia. The airport at El Altet has had a busy start to the year, and on the property front various statistical reports were published this week showing, among other things, that the real estate market is becoming more and more reliant on the activity of non-Spaniards: in the province of Alicante over half of all purchasers last year were from outside Spain, while a quarter of all foreigners buying in this country chose properties in Alicante. Whether this will be good for the market in the long term remains to be seen, but the same trend is also becoming noticeable on the rest of the Mediterranean coast. Overall, though, property sales were down across the country as a whole, and the Comunitat Valenciana was no exception: 10% fewer properties were sold last year than in 2012. At the same time, the latest figures suggest that prices are still falling, despite recent optimism that the worst of the slump could be over.
The region was unfortunately prominent in Spain’s first known case of an attempt to buy human organs for a transplant, which ended up boosting the reputation of the health service in two ways: the efficiency of their screening procedures meant that the guilty party was caught, and at the same time he eventually received the liver transplant he needed. Elsewhere a group of Bulgarians exploiting their fellow countrymen by sending them to work in the fields of south-eastern Spain for a pittance was dismantled, the authorities in Valencia launched a campaign to clampdown on the activities of unauthorized car mechanics and during the week four columns of the “Dignity March” set out from the region for Madrid, where protesters from all over the country will converge on 22nd March to demand “bread, a roof, rights and dignity”.
In Orihuela, the news continues to be dominated by the seemingly interminable row over the city’s two weekly markets, as the changes in location for both have been temporarily put on hold. Both traders and local residents have protested at the plans to move the Saturday market this weekend after council workers started painting the streets of the historic city centre with bright green markings, and the move has now been postponed by a court order, while the council itself has put back the date of the change of the Tuesday market while it reviews stallholders’ outstanding licence payments. Elsewhere in the municipality the council has spent 30,000 euros on repairing pavements in the outlying district of La Campaneta, and in Orihuela Costa the new footbridge enabling residents of La Regia to cross the N-332 more safely is now fully open.
In Elche the Charca del Prado has been added to the list of the Comunitat Valenciana’s protected wetland wildlife reserves, and in an effort to increase the number of tourists visiting the city centre the Mayoress travelled to Cartagena to see how the newly discovered Civil War air raid shelter might be turned into a museum and visitor centre. In the meantime, her predecessor in the post, Alejandro Soler, was found not guilty of charges of domestic violence.
Torrevieja this week witnessed a double near-drowning which is believed to have been caused by speeding fishermen in the port, where young trainee jobseekers have been painting over graffiti, and the Town Hall proudly published its accounts for last year, which have shown sufficient improvement for there to be a promise of no local tax increases during 2014. The Torrevieja Lions also brought good news in the form of a 5,000-euro donation to the local ALPE centre for handicapped children.
Despite making a commendable effort to save money, though, the council is still investing in improving the municipality, and the renovation of the Policía Local’s fleet of vehicles is now almost complete, while in the city of Alicante the fight against crime includes recent efforts to reduce bicycle theft. This is being done by means of issuing bikes with registration plates similar to those used on cars and motorbikes, and it seems the scheme is beginning to take off.
While some of us are enjoying the Fallas over the next few days, others will be planning to attend the well-known Tomatina event in Bunyol in August. If the popular tomato-throwing event is on your list of things to do this summer, beware unauthorized ticket sales: the Town Hall has had to issue a statement reporting a website selling tickets it doesn’t have, and will be pressing charges against the site’s owners.
And finally, don’t forget: the last day of the Fallas next Wednesday is also the feast day of San José, so congratulations will be in order for a large percentage of your Spanish friends: even if they aren’t called José, it’s also Father’s Day in Spain, and while most shops will be closed for the day, expect restaurants to be full of large family groups!
The fiestas diary of the Comunitat Valenciana this week is of course dominated by the Fallas in the regional capital and various other towns, particularly in the province of Valencia itself, but there’s plenty more going on for those who don’t fancy the noise and crowds of the region’s best-known celebrations.
The events this weekend include two magic shows in Los Montesinos, the first time such an event has been staged in the municipality, and the continuation of the series of free chamber music concerts in the churches of Orihuela, with three more events programmed for 15th, 16th and 21st March.
At the same time classical music fans will be able to choose between a performance of Puccini’s “Turandot” in Elche by the prestigious Donbass company and a free concert in Orihuela featuring adaptations of popular works by Beethoven performed by the Harmonie XXI woodwind ensemble. This group has re-invented a style of musical performance which was in vogue in the eighteenth century.
Irish readers won’t need reminding that Monday is Saint Patrick’s Day, and in the Aguamarina near Cabo Roig, in Orihuela Costa, the official parade begins at 15.00 to mark the occasion. Residents and visitors in this area might like to note that a little later in the month, on 23rd March, there is a special tourist walk along the coast of Orihuela, and reservations to take part can already be made.
The Sabores de Cuaresma season in Pilar de la Horadada is still in full swing, offering a variety of fish- and seafood-based Lent menus in local restaurants at affordable prices, and another food based event in the municipality is the MABS Mar Menor lunch on Tuesday in El Mojón, offering friendship for local ladies as well as raising money for cancer. Later on Tuesday Spain’s best-known a capello singing group, the humorous and widely acclaimed “b vocal”, will be performing for one night only in Alicante, and at the same time a special Father’s Day concert is being held one day early in Torrevieja.
Wednesday is San José, Father’s Day and a public holiday in Spain, so enjoy the festivities even if the Fallas are not your cup of tea!
Apart from these one-off events, a few interesting new exhibitions have opened this week, including a display of photographs and videos relating to bad weather in Torrevieja, the return of an exhibition of artwork created 23 years ago to commemorate the death of local poet Miguel Hernández in Orihuela, and two exhibitions in Pilar de la Horadada, one by retired residents of the municipality and the other by Marie Fisher, a Brazilian resident in Torrevieja.
As usual, a real pot pourri of options this week: whatever you choose to do, enjoy it!
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Spanish National Newswww.spanishnewstoday.com
This week we’ve prepared a full property report on the Spanish property situation as a lot of different sets of figures have come out this week, which can be read on the dedicated Spanish News bulletin, along with a much more detailed news breakdown of the national news.
Terrorism has been an important topic in the news this week, as Spain commemorates the tenth anniversary of the 11-M Madrid train bombings in which 191 people were killed and nearly 2,000 injured. This attack helped to change the course of history, mishandling of the situation by the incumbent government just three days before the elections brought 11 million people out onto the streets in protest, as it was revealed that the attack had not been carried out by ETA as was first believed, but by Islamic militants. Ten years on, the media have been immersed in discussing their belief that Spain is more at threat now from Islamic terrorists now than ever before, as increased numbers of American troops take up postings in Spanish bases.
Another inmate seeking his liberty has been Luis Bárcenas, who has again written to ask for his liberty, having spent 8 months in jail without trial for his part in the “Bárcenas B-books” and Caso Gürtel “ cash for contracts investigations, although his case for freedom suffered a bit of a set-back when it was revealed that the bank account of his wife showed parallel payments to those shown in the B-books, a set of accounts which allegedly show illegal donations to the PP political party and their subsequent redistribution to high ranking party members.
Another political story readers may find interesting is a situation in Almeria, where politicians are slinging mud over the decision to declare the figure of the local “Virgin” as honorary Mayoress of the town, something which is not uncommon and is an interesting little snip into the changing face of Spain and modern day immigration.
Emigration, however, is causing a problem in Andalucia, affecting both small and larger population centres, so we have the situation in a major city like Seville, the capital of the region, where a falling level of population threatens the city with the loss of status of “large city” which means it loses not only councillors, but also state funding should its population drop below the magic 700,000 mark as it did once before. And then in the same region, a local council in Almeria is desperate to attract more families back into the municipality and is offering free housing to the “right type of families” in order to bring in enough children to keep its school open.
Protestors have been back on the streets again this week, as women across Spain continue to carry out protests about the proposed amendments to the abortion law, some protesting in marches and demonstrations, others registering their bodies as their own property with municipal registers across Spain, a topic which was picked up by the BBC in the UK, who featured the topic in a full length report on Women’s day on the main evening news.
Marchers from across Spain are walking to Madrid, as the Marchas de la Dignidad bring protestors on foot from different parts of the country to form together in one mass protest about a wide range of social issues.
There have also been violent protests in Galicia against allocations of the mackerel quotas for northern fishing fleets, although in the same week the tragic loss of a fishing vessel from the fleet has also cast a shadow over the fishing community. The “Santa Ana” turned over on Monday morning, with the immediate loss of 2 lives and rescue of the skipper, but 6 mariners are still missing. Bad weather and the fact that the nets are in the water around the stricken vessel has prevented divers from getting inside the semi-submerged hull, where the bodies of the remaining fishermen are expected to be found, although today, Friday, conditions have improved sufficiently to try and turn the hull over.
Assaults have also continued on the Melilla and Ceuta borders, and the Gibraltan government has also been complaining that the border queues on the Gibraltar-Spain border are once again starting to increase.
However, tourists continue to flock to Spain and air traffic figures for February promise another record tourist year, as festivals are unveiled and the coast starts to prepare for Easter, when everything kicks off once again. One little warning though, be careful where you buy tickets: the Tomatina festival in Buñol in Valencia is already warning those buying tickets through the internet should only buy from the official site if they don´t want to be disappointed.
And thoughts turn to the emergence of Spain from the current economic crisis as 0% inflation is presented as the February inflation figure: Ferrari have announced a 100 million euro agreement with Port Aventura in Cataluña to build a “Ferrariland” themed park alongside the existing Port Aventura installations, taking advantage of the 4 million tourists who already visit the park every year.
Lots more news, cultural events and info about Spain on the Spanish News Today site
Across the border in Murcia, a new regional president has been appointed to take over from President Valcárcel who is hoping to take up a new career in the european Parliament following the forthcoming European elections. Click for Murcia Today weekly bulletin for a full news and what’son round-up.
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The first brave soul has ventured onto the new Valencia classifieds and registered an item for sale. This service offers a FREE CLASSIFIEDS FOR ITEMS UNDER 500 EUROS sold by private buyers, the Murcia classifieds over the border receiving over 60,000 visits a month, lots of sellers getting rid of unwanted items for free. Charities are also welcome to use this free classifieds service to sell items they have received through donations for free. Businesses can also advertise inexpensively either in the classifieds alone or as part of a wider promotional package.
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