Saturday, April 28, 2012

Bringing in the sheaves

We are driving away from Jumilla and we are amused by groups of young people, clad in bikinis and underpants, hosing each other down in the car washes. It's Saturday 20th August 2011.

Jumilla is nearing the end of its summer fiestas. Two festivals run into each other - the Folklore Festival, which brings traditional music and dance groups from all over Spain, overlaps with the Festival of the vendimia - the celebration of the wine harvest.

We've just been to see the Great Wine Parade. I'd presumed that this fiesta stretched back in time to hardy Spanish peasants celebrating the start of the harvest. But none of it. 2011 celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the wine festival which was set up by the local bodegas or wineries as recently as 1972 Well it seems recent to me. It was designed as a tourist attraction and attract tourists it does.

The streets heave with young people. Older people generally cower away from the passing floats. White is a good colour to wear if you're taking part and a bad choice as a spectator. It colours up a treat with red wine. Lots of people, particularly women, wear the traditional swirly skirt and a white blouse whilst both sexes wear the black trousers, black waistcoat, white shirt and blue cummerbund traditionally reserved for men. Both sexes wear the alpargatas too, the espadrille type footwear with soles traditionally woven from the local esparto grass a cloth upper and long ankle laces to keep them on. Alpargatas are just right for treading grapes, We'd seen them in action in the grape treading competition just a couple of days before.

Old clothes are de rigeur for both participants and bystanders. Shorts are good as is anything you can rip and drench in wine. Young men seem to be quite keen on ripping the shirts that the young women are wearing. The torn clothes, drenched in wine are hurled into the air. People swim in the river of wine that flows down the streets. People pour wine over their heads. Big Coca Cola bottles, pressed into service as a cross between water pistols and the traditional botas, send streams of wine high into the air. People on the floats pour nasty, cheap, early harvest wine on to the crowd from big plastic tanks.

So everyone is pushing and shoving and drinking and jumping and singing and bawling. Amazingly no vomiting or fighting though. At least we don't see any. We do see a lot of staggering.

And afterwards the young participants go back to their cars. Some cover their car seats with old bits of cardboard and go home to shower and change but the majority pour cold water over each other to clean up or pop down the car wash at the local garage and enjoy a sort of communal, high pressure, good natured water fight. It doesn't matter so long as they can change their clothes and get on with the fiesta.

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