¡Fiestas Galore!

In Vitroia-Gasteiz, as in the rest of Spain, fiestas seem to happen every week, particularly in summer. Spaniards certainly don't need much of an excuse to have a party, and they really know how to let their hair down! During fiestas and at weekends, it is not unusual to walk down one of the narrow streets in the casco viejo(old town) after 4 a.m., and the place is still buzzing with people making lots of noise.

Following on from the Jazz Festival, there was a small fiesta in Parque de Molinuevo. The Casa Americas fiesta celebrated Latin American culture, music and dance. There is a healthy South American presence in Spain, accounting for the largest immigrant presence here, followed by Moroccans, who often brave the Straights of Gibralter in flimsy boats to illegally enter the country for the chance of a better life.

A sunny day, nice ladies dancing on stage, and a plentiful supply of drink and food were the order of the day here.

Vitoria is a very "tranquilo" place, and here in the park the atmosphere was very relaxed among the mainly Latin American audience, making for a good summer family day.

Another larger fiesta is "El día del Blusa". This happens on the 25th July every year, coinciding with "La Fiesta de Santiago", the patron saint of Spain.

The protagonists in "The Day of the Blouse" are many locals donning white shirts and blue "blouses". The traditional clothes worn date back to when groups of friends would meet to go to the bull ring on this national holiday. To avoid their clothes getting stained they began to wear protective workers' overall-type clothes, which subsequently came to resemble those of Basque farmers and shephards.

This fiesta is seen as a warm-up to Vitoria's biggest party, the fiesta de la Virgen Blanca (see next post), where these clothes are also worn during the six-day party.

The main activities of the fiesta are parades of blusas through the streets heading for the bullfight and a donkey race around the central plaza, involving about 20 representatives from the different squads of blusas.

The most bizarre thing for me, though, was a market on several streets where all the stalls sell only one thing, "collars" of garlic (see picture). Most people I saw walking in the street had one or two of these around their knecks, which must keep them going for months!

The Spanish cities I have been to have excellent waste disposal and street-cleaning policies,with rubbish bins emptied at least once a day, and street cleaning vehicles and "binmen" working through the night. One facility in Vitoria that I hadn't come across before, though, is the vacuum waste disposal system. If you look at the above picture, you will see some grey receptacles on the left of the street. In Vitoria they utilise the Envac system. This vacuum system transports waste to a central depot through underground pipes at speeds of up to 70 km per hour!

This system is particularly useful for historic streets where heavy vehicular access is not possible, like here in Vitoria's old quarter.

The system has never been used in the UK before, but is now being installed in Wembley, so could become more widespread over there in the next few years.