Today, I found myself surrounded by several thousand students on the riverbank of the River Tormes in Salamanca, lessons cancelled for a festival which is basically one massive pic-nic.
This large-scale pic-nic is better known as “Lunes de Aguas,” translated literally as “Monday of the Waters.” Although, I keep thinking it is “Lune de Agua” because I happen to live with three Extramadurians, two of whom don’t pronounce any of their s’s and I am not used to the accent as much! The fiesta is held every year, the first Monday after Semana Santa. It is also exclusive to the province of Salamanca, and is not celebrated anywhere else which makes it quite special.
The festival is quite simple. It is celebrated between friends and families, primarily on the river bank and in the countryside, where you take food and drink to have fun and “emborracharse” for many. I was invited by my housemates to join them today. We are quite lucky as we live right by the river so it was easy to come back to get things if we needed or to avoid the portaloos for an actual clean bathroom. My housemates and their friends cooked homemade tortillas and ‘hornazo’ which is the local delicacy, traditionally eaten during Lunes de Aguas. This is why it is great living with Spaniards! “Hornazo” is a type of pork pie, eaten in this region and although I love tasting local cuisine, I don’t eat pork, so I just got to see what it looked like and see everyone else enjoy it. Inside is stuffed pork loin, chorizo and hard-boiled eggs. It can be bought in shops nearly anywhere in Salamanca, so if you’re visiting and wanting to try something local, this is an option.
The story goes that in the 16th century, King Felipe II, on his visit to Salamanca, decided to expel the prostitutes of the city during Lent to the other side of the river to “evitar caer en la tentación carnal” and now, people celebrate this by eating pork pies (carne). It wasn’t until the Monday after Semana Santa that they were able to return to the city by boat, and the people waited by the river, eating and drinking to wait their return and have a fiesta.
It’s one of the more unusual festivals I have heard of but I find it fantastic that it is so important in Salamanca that shops close and university classes are cancelled and it allows us to have a longer weekend! Everyone just stops what they are doing, puts together a pic-nic with their friend and hangs out at the river all afternoon/evening even if they may have better things to do. It’s quite cute really and there is a sense of community and tradition upheld here in being a part of this as everyone makes time for the pic-nic.
As well as the fiesta today, I have no classes this Thursday either because there is a “fiesta” in the Languages Faculty. Apparently each Faculty has a “fiesta” one day in the year – can we implement this back in the UK? I think they might be on to something here… I don’t really know what will happen during the “fiesta” though. There is apparently ANOTHER fiesta the following Thursday (23 April) and I am making use of the long weekend to travel to Sevilla and Granada! It’s quite ridiculous but fabulous at the same time. I am missing so many classes that my French teacher has rescheduled for a class at the end of the month to be SEVEN hours in one day… That is going to be interesting!
Although I have been enjoying fiestas and travel recently, I am still studying here in Spain (if anyone forgot). Today has been especially good as I managed to finally finish my Portuguese commentary on a discourse about “the decadence of the Iberian peoples”, that turned into eight pages of stress. I have never written an essay in Portuguese before, never actually studied Portuguese culture/history before… but I am quite pleased with what I have managed. The subject was extremely interesting and it was a good exercise to test my language skills.
Can you recall any interesting festivals/traditions you have experienced (in Spain and beyond)? Let me know in the comments below!