The celebration of Las Fallas, the largest festival in Valencia, commenced today with La Mascleta, the setting off of firecrackers in the central square, La Plaza d’Ayuntamente. We’ve been told that this will happen every day at 2 p.m. between now and Mar. 19, when the festival ends. It’s quite the deal, with thousands in attendance, the “Falleras” in the stands in full costume, and the ground shaking with the carefully staged explosions. From the stories I’m hearing, I’m getting the impression that Las Fallas will be something like Mardi Gras on steroids! There will be much more about this in the coming weeks.
Also of note this week, we took the students to an NGO that provides services for immigrants in Valencia, Acoge (http://valencia-acoge.org/). Christine, the British woman who helped to found the organization and is president of the managing board, provided the students with a realistic view of how difficult life is here for immigrants from North Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. Acoge staff and volunteers help immigrants obtain the all-important paper-work, advocate for them with potential employers and landlords, and actively work to reform institutional practices like detention centers and police abuse. It was good for the students to see that life is very tough for many in Spain. Along that line, demonstrations continue all over Spain in response to the economic crisis and government policies.
On a lighter note, in this case a chocolate note, one of our favorite Spanish teachers, Gemma, escorted all of us to a “churros and chocolate” traditional treat in the historic district. I also took two of the students out for chocolate and fruit fondue for their birthdays. I need to leave before I’m 300 pounds! I’m also adding a few photos that I took from the top of the Cathedral.