It’s was a 3 day weekend in Galicia. Or ‘a bridge’ as they call it in Spain. I am still not sure why the use of that term means an extra day off. But, there you go. From an outsider’s perspective, this seems like the premier holiday on the Galician calendar. But what is Día das Letras Galegas, and why is it so important?
The language of Galicia, Gallego, is a language spoken just in this region. Like many autonomous regions of Spain, the unique language mirrors a unique culture. The celebration of the language is a celebration of all that it means to be Galician. And to take pride in one’s heritage. We barely speak Spanish, so speaking Gallego is a bit of an uphill climb. We have heard it is similar to, and may have been the origin of Portuguese. Certainly having spent last summer in Portugal, we see similarities all over the place. Street names and the like.
Each year, a Galician writer is chosen to to be honoured for their contributions to the language of the region. It’s sort of the Nobel Prize for literature, or the Pulitzer Prize in Galicia. This year, they celebrate Lugo/Vigo poet Xela Arias, who passed away in 2003. Her work highlighted the transition from rural to urban life in the province. She passed away very young of a heart attack.
The cities and towns of the region don’t just celebrate getting a day off work or school. There are entire programs for celebrating the creative talents that either began or currently reside in Galicia. The lines in old Lugo to get free books handed out by the municipal government wound throughout the central plaza. And Melide is no different. Jeff was insistent that we participate.
‘We need to fit in and embrace this town. No, I’m not a huge fan of flute music, but we are going.’
This is why we walked all the way from our home and into town on Sunday to participate in watching some local artistic talents at the Cultural Centre of Melide. We live about an hour and 15 minutes walking from the town centre and we got lucky staying dry the entire time. When we arrived at the venue on the same street with the 20 or so dance clubs that Melide is famous for, and might open in the next few weeks as contagion drops dramatically, we were surprised to see a line to get into the flute concert. It seems that in Melide they will support their own.
We didn’t just happen upon this concert. We were eating in a restaurant and the proud parents of the woman who was headlining stopped at our table to tell us about the show. After that, Jeff reminded me repeatedly that we needed to make sure we went. Honestly, this is not like him, at all.
It’s a pretty nice venue for the size of the town, and the woman at the door asked us if we had reserved in advance. We had no inkling this might be necessary. It’s a flute concert. Seriously. But then we were a bit concerned, with social distancing required, and rows and seats blocked off, that we wouldn’t get a seat. We got lucky we did. The show lasted a little more than an hour. Lucia played both classical flute and some scores of her own. We saw her parents up front clapping loudly. They had come up before the show to thank us for coming. And many people took videos of the event. It reminded us of all the concerts we went to for our kids over the years.
When we were done we headed to the taxi stand to make our way home. The guy who picked us up was chatty on the way. I told him where we wanted to go and he said he already knew where it was,
‘I know where you live. You are la casa primera on that road .’
Which felt a bit strange. On the way, he showed us where he lived, too.
Every day, we meet more and more local people. It seems they are all talking to each other. Us, being brand spanking new, we are a hot topic right now. It will pass. A year from now, no one will care we are here. We will hear our names called out on the street and wave. Just like everyone else. But we have some social points to gather first. And the Galician Day of Literature was a good place to start.