Sevilla Feria de Abril Day 4

I went back to Feria a third time on to capture images of the music and dancing, what an amazing experience. Feria allows Sevillanos to bask in their joyful culture, celebrating tapas and wine, Andalusian horses, vintage carriages, and music and dancing. By late afternoon the casetas are alive with the festive sounds of Sevillanas, lively four-part songs with accompanying four-part flamenco dances, and lively music. Sevillanos begin learning the dance’s arm and foot moves as soon as they start taking their first steps. When the casatas fill with dancing becoming too crowded, the dancers simply move outside to the sidewalks and streets! The music and festive spirit are inescapable the sights and sounds cannot help but lift the spirit and enliven the soul.

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Sevilla Feria de Abril Days 3 & 4

I was able to attend two bullfights at Sevilla’s Plaza de Toro de la Real Maestranza or the Bullring of the Royal Armory during my stay. Sevilla’s bullfight season begins the same week as Feria with some of the best matadors in Spain on the lineups, with most corridas are sold out days in advance. The first one I attended was for a Corrida de Rejones where the torero fights the bull from horseback. The program included three Rejonearos or bullfighters and six bulls. Their equestrian skills are astounding, the horse and rider become one in their ability to fight as well as taunt and evade the bull appearing to turn the encounter into an intricate ballet. The second bullfight was a traditional bullfight with the Matador on foot assisted by the Picadores, and Banderilleros. The pageantry and tradition are deeply ingrained in Spanish culture.

I realize there is a certain amount of controversy surrounding bullfighting as such I am not sure if this topic will or will not make it into the article I am planning. However, the Spaniard who I sat next to asked me to consider that the bulls lead an incredibly comfortable life, since birth they are pampered, living in the countryside until they are 3-4 years old, grazing on the fresh grass, alfalfa and acorns growing wild in the fields. He said, when they enter the ring they do so courageously and proudly. And, as he pointed out they at least have the ability to fight back. On the other hand, he noted that cattle raised for market are raised in industrial animal factories, confined to small pens while being fed additives and chemicals. Typically, they graze for just a few months before being transferred and to confined feedlots where the goal is to add as much weight as possible in as short a period as possible with the next stop being the slaughterhouse. He asked me which would you prefer the life of the bull raised for the ring or the life of cattle raised for market?

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Sevilla Feria de Abril More from Day 3

Tapas, vino, baile Sevillana, young gents on horseback, vintage carriages for the grown-up…and bubbles for the younger set!

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Sevilla Feria de Abril More from Day 3

The Sevillanos go all out to share their love for of Andalusian tradition dressing in period costume and taking great pride in their equestrian skills as they parade in their antique carriages through the Centro Histórico on their way to Feria!

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Sevilla Feria de Abril from Day 3

And then there are the horses and carriages!

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Sevilla Feria de Abril from Day 3

The gentlemen horsemen parade around the Recinto de Feria or Fair Grounds in traditional outfits, proudly showing off their Andalusian horses, with the younger riders vying for the attention of a señorita who might choose to honor them by riding with them.

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Sevilla Feria de Abril More from Day 2

Lest we not forget the appropriate Sevillana floral hair adornment and of course the requisite beautifully embroidered shawl!

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Sevilla Feria de Abril More from Day 2

And then there are the women’s’ brightly colored, polka-dotted traditional Sevillana flamenco dresses; I must have seen thousands of them and as God is my witness there were NO two alike!

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Sevilla Feria de Abril Day 2

Returning to the Recinto de Feria or Fair Grounds the following morning I actually passed several groups of young merrymakers who were just returning home after a night of revelry, the partying does indeed go till dawn and beyond. Arriving early, before the crowds and seeing over 1000 casetas, all lined up in regimented order, by day was a colorful and impressive sight. The casetas, of varying sizes, belong to prominent Sevillano families, groups of friends, businesses, clubs, trade associations and political parties, most of the casetas are private and open only to members or their guests. The casetas serve as miniature homes and each is decorated with a distinct personality and most are equipped with a kitchen, a bar, and tables and chairs to enjoy the tasty tapas and abundant wine and beer. If you don’t know someone, or work for a business, or belong to a trade association that hosts a caseta, there are also seven public casetas, one for each of Sevilla’s six districts and the “caseta municipal”.

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Sevilla Feria de Abril Day 1

I drove to Sevilla from Granada returning my rental car in time to make it back for the April 15th mid-night official opening of Feria de Abril. Feria traditionally starts two weeks after the religious processions of Semana Santa have come to an end. The focus shifts from the piousness of lent to the merriment of music, wine, food and dancing that is Feria. The annual spring festival dates back to back to 1847 and was originally established as a livestock fair for cattle ranchers to bring their livestock to market. Tents or casetas were set-up in a large open field on the outskirts of town to provide the ranchers with shade and a place to meet, and slowly small food vendors also began setting up casetas to provide food for the ranchers. During the day the ranchers conducted business, then by late afternoon the food vendors would begin preparing their best tapa recipes and the vino tinto and cerveza would begin to flow in abundance. As the tradition evolved eligible gentlemen would parade up and down the dirt streets on their impressive Andalusian horses and couples and families would ride around in their fancy carriages. By nightfall, the casetas would become alive with the rhythmic sounds of guitar music and the dancing of the Sevillanas, a festive genre of flamenco unique to the area. The merriment and revelry would go well into the late hours of the night.

Today there are no cattle, but the other traditions of wine, tapas, the horsemen, the carriages, guitars and baile Sevillana all remain firmly in place. Right at the stroke of midnight Feria’s Alumbrao or illumination takes place to mark its official opening. With the push of a single button Sevilla’s mayor illuminates the thousands of light bulbs on the immense Portada de la Feria which rises several stories into the sky followed by the sequential lighting of thousands of strands of light bulbs strung across the streets throughout the fairgrounds thus marking and an entire week of revelry and partying! Feria de Abril has a 170 year history and it is one of the largest festivals of its kind in the world with more 1,000 casetas and 500,000 visitors daily.

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