The fiesta is the thing in Valencia. Life here is marked by each date on the calendar celebrating Saints and the Seasons. An occasional battle. And always there is Fallas. The Fallero organizations throughout the city are the largest fraternal organizations and mark the neighbourhoods and alliances that go back generations. Belonging is important here. I guess it´s like being cave people and the primal feeling of safety in numbers. The group has your back.
During the pandemic, these groups have been shuttered. Unable to meet up. It’s caused massive controversy and depression amongst members. And more than that, nearly 25% of these organizations in Valencia have gone bankrupt. Yet another casualty of Covid. So many young girls have planned, with their families, for years to become Falleras. And the pride they take in this evident when you see them out on the streets during processions or at events, large and small, throughout the city. Last year, the Falleras were robbed of their fame. This year, there will be no Fallera selections in February. All getting ready for the traditional week of the minots and mascletas in the third week in March. Culminating with the crema where each falla is burned overnight on the final night.
The cancelling of another Fallas was a tough pill to swallow for Valencia. We have struggled to cancel the fiestas and processions in the past year. Some have been modified to try to curb the contagion after groups protested that the restrictions were too much. But these usually resulted in spikes in transmissions with political ramifications and recriminations afterwards.
The decision was made a few weeks ago, while we were deep in the third wave, to cancel, again Fallas for this year. It was yet another devastating blow. Now that we´re coming out of the third wave we are focused on how we can keep people from gathering at Easter to stem an inevitable forth wave in April and May. But now that vaccines are looking to be on the way, attention has turned to how we can celebrate Fallas in 2021. Even if it looks very different than normal.
Fallas is synonymous with the mascleta. These are huge day-time fireworks installations, both in the main town centre and in areas around the city sponsored by individual Falleros. Fireworks is Valencia and pyrotechnics is something you can study in university here. During the pandemic, many fireworks workshops have gone under. Valencia is usually a noisy place on any given day. Fireworks are constantly going off. But during Fallas its an artform. And heading to the town square for the largest masletas at 2:05pm daily, and midnight on weekends, from the end of February through the last day of Fallas in March to ring in the Spring Equinox is something you need to experience in person. I´ve only done it once because my ears didn´t like it, but it´s not just an assault to the ears. You´re meant to feel it in your chest. The vibrations assault you and come up from the ground through your feet. People around me told me not to plug my ears or the pressure would blow my ear drums. You can see it here. I was actually at this mascleta. It was the last one I attended. It took my ears a week to recover.
This year, there is optimism that Fallas, in some form, could happen later in the year after mass vaccinations start. A survey ran in the local news asking people to vote on whether a modified Fallas could happen in July, September or October. This seems optimistic to me. But they´re planning something sooner for those who can´t live without a mascleta fix. Each day, starting March 1st at 13:40, they´ll play the ´Best of 30 years of mascletas´ for the three weeks that would have been Fallas. It will run on the local Valencia station and they are encouraging people to tune in and turn up their tv volume to the loudest setting, and open their windows to participate.
Normally, this wouldn´t make Jeff very happy. But this year he´s looking forward to a break from the guy upstairs, who we´re convinced is either perpetually remodelling his flat. Or he´s taken up marble sculpting. Ugh. But, I will admit I have kind of missed the fireworks and all the random processions and marching bands. It´s the life of this city. Coming around the corner and discovering yourself in the midst of a procession complete with priests, a saint or the Virgin Mary carried on a litter, or a marching band has some real appeal right about now.
So we will participate in the faux masletas for our final Fallas in Valencia. Ensuring we´ll go out with a bang before we embrace new adventures up in Galicia. New fiestas, new traditions. But first, it´s time to say goodbye to Fallas.