Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ya se acabo

Saturday, February 22nd was the Chorizá in Ubrique. The Chorizá is perhaps one of the most popular and important festivities during the Ubrique Carnaval. It marks the official beginning of Carnaval, and the entire town gathers in the town square (below my house!) at 2:00 pm to listen to a government official (dressed in a costume in the true spirit of Carnaval) announce the festivities, to listen to the comparsas and chirigotas, and to...of course...drink and eat Chorizá (spanish sausage). After the opening ceremony/speech, the festivities continued up the narrow pedestrian streets of the Casco Antiguo (historic district of Ubrique), where whole-in-the-wall bars served a never ending supply of Cruzcampo (beer), and street bars provided Chorizá, and individual homeowners opened their residences to allow people to use the washrooms...for a small donation, of course. While everyone was eating and drinking, meandering from bar to bar, the various chirigotas and comparsas seranaded the people with their witty and catchy songs.

Once people got tired of the festivities outside in the Casco Antiguo (which is around 11:30 or midnight), they wandered down to Avenida España (the main "downtown" street in Ubrique) and hit the bars. The town comparsas and chirigotas continue to sing, the people continue to drink, and pass the night away with their friends and family. The streets and bars of Ubrique are packed, as this festival draws people from all the surrounding pueblos of Prado del Rey, El Bosque, Cortes, Grazalema, Benoacaz, etc. It truly is a Spanish experience that no one should miss.

While the Chorizá is quite amazing, I would have to argue that the last weekend of Carnaval is the best. On Saturday, February 28th, the entire town (well, most people) filled the bars along Avenida España to listen to the music of Carnaval and eat Paella (a typical andalucian dish). By night fall, people returned to their homes, and around 10:30 pm, once again lined Avenida España. This time...however, everyone was dressed in elaborate costumes and in big groups. My friends and I (and yup, I was the only real blonde...and the only non-Spaniard) dressed as Musketeers. Instead of 3, however, there were 22. Everyone who dressed up then participated in the town parade, and paraded through the streets until they reached the Plaza del Ayuntamiento (town square...where I live). Once there, the botellón (drinking party) started...and didn´t finish until 8 in the morning. A band played all through the night, friends mingled, and drinks were either consumed or spilled. Overall, its one big costume party - probably one of the biggest you´ll ever see, and the longest lasting! These Spaniards truly know how to live it up and have fun. No one can argue with that.

On Sunday, March 1st, the last day of Carnaval, there was one last parade...that of the Patacabra (a tool used for working with leather, and a symbol of Ubrique). As it made its way from the Casco Antiguo to the end of town, the townspeople lined the streets and followed it, dancing and singing, all the way to the Plaza de las Palmeras. Once there, everyone filled the Plaza, and watched an impressive fireworks display. At the conclusion of the fireworks, the Patacabra (float) was set on fire to declare the end of Carnaval. Some people threw their costumes onto the burning Patacabra, and others just watched solemnly as it was engulfed in flames, then filed out of the Plaza to return home and prepare for Carnaval 2010. :) With any luck, I will be here again, too. Heck, you´ve gotta live life while you´re young, right?!

Y así se acababa.

And so it finished.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Month-Long Party? Count Me In!!

Welcome to February, the month in which we (us Spaniards...and yes, I am decidedly Spanish) celebrate Carnaval. Carnival is one of Spain’s main popular festivities which is celebrated only in the province of Cádiz with street parades, costumes, beauty pageants, music, and gastronomical festivities. Cádiz is famous in Spain and worldwide for its Carnaval celebrations. The celebrations in the capital city of Cádiz (Cádiz) are most famous of all (and yes, I will be heading there on Sunday to take part).

However, even in Ubrique (a fairly small town with a population 18,000), we know how to get down and party. Carnaval began the first weekend of February, on Saturday Feb. 7th at 2:00 pm with the Tortillá and the Jamoná. Both were hosted outside in local plazas, and provided free Spanish tortilla (at the Tortillá) and free ham bocadillos (at the Jamoná) to those who purchased a beverage (Cruzcampo beer, Coke, Tinto...etc) for 1 euro. While people mingled and enjoyed the refreshments and Spanish culinary specialties, the various Comparsas and Chirigotas were introduced and performed for the crowds (See below for explanations). The party continued into the night...and into Sunday morning...finally coming to a close around 6 am.

The second weekend of Carnaval began Saturday, Feb. 14th at 1:00 pm with the Chicharroná. Like the Tortillá and Jamoná, the Chicharroná was celebrated in another outdoor plaza, and provided samples of chicharroná (pork mixed with fat) with the purchase of a refreshment. You are probably thinking pork bits mixed with fat sounds quite awful. However, it is actually quite flavorful...but admittedly is not my favorite and should be consumed in small doses haha. The afternoon flew by as we bar hopped, and continued to listen to the various Comparsas and Chirigotas. Perhaps the best part of the evening came around 8:00 pm when I went with my friends to help dress (in costumes) one of the Comparsas (in which their boyfriends sing). The official presentation of the Comparsas and Chirigotas began at 9:30 pm and was held in the high school auditorium. Tickets were limited and were 6 euros each. Fortunately for me...I was able to enter with my friends and the Comparsa, and watch from back stage. Not only was it free, but it was up close and personal, and frankly, one of the best experiences of my life. I have never seen nor had the opportunity to participate in such a fun celebration/event in my life. When the official presentation ended, the party continued into the night...and into Sunday morning...and didn´t come to an end...

Sunday at 2:00 pm, the Murcillá (another gastronomical festival) began, and once again the Comparsas and Chirigotas were in the streets to serenade the crowd. Unfortunately, I am not a huge fan of murcillá (or more commonly known as blood sausage), so I did not enjoy the free food quite as much this time around. Not to worry, though, the community, the atmosphere, and the singing made up for it. The party continued into the afternoon...and did not come to an end until around 6 pm. Phew, what a weekend.

Stay tuned for more updates on Carnaval. Next weekend is the Chorizá (one of the most popular events in Ubrique). The weekend after that, is the parade and costume party. Two more weekends of excitement (and no sleep).

PS...have I mentioned yet that I am in LOVE with this country, its culture, its language, and its traditions?? Let´s just say I am pretty much obsessed and would be happier than ever to spend the rest of my life here (if only my family were closer).

Now...for some definitions and explanations:

Comparsas. These are the most serious of the groupings. Their specialty is pasodoble and they organize in groups of 15 members. The song lyrics can be satirical and vindictive and they tend towards a more emotive and poetical tone instead of the silly mocking tone of the chirigotas (source:

Chirigotas. Comical and outrageous, these groups are the complete opposite of the comparsas. Laughter is guaranteed as their 12 members try to characterize reality to the point of exaggeration. They use whistles, as well as other simple percussion type instruments (cajas y bombos), creating more noisy accompaniment than musical. They perform couplets recited in the form of tongue twisters with an amusing satirical tone (source:

I Just Don´t Get It

Let me preface this post by saying that if you are anxious to read about my continuing adventures in Spain...skip to the next post. If you so choose to keep reading this entry, please be aware that I am taking the opportunity to write down some thoughts and vent a moment.

I have previously mentioned that the start of 2009 was a little rocky...dead electronics, bad haircut, etc etc. Little did I know that only three days after my last post on January 19th, I would truly come to know and understand what a "rocky start" is. Those of you following this blog likely will figure out what I am referring to, and if not, I do not know what to say. I do not plan on making any direct references to the incident over the internet.

Let´s just say that I am sick and tired of injustice in this world. I do not, nor will I ever understand what possesses one human being to intentionally and maliciously destroy the property of another or to purposefully hurt another. I do not understand violence. I do not understand superiority complexes. I do not undertand the big-to-do about race and ethnicity. I do not undertand why it is so difficult to look at each other and treat each other with respect, dignity, and equality.

When I was informed of the incident that so strongly affected my family in Colorado, I remember thinking immediately "things like that just do not happen here in Spain, especially not in Ubrique." And to a large extent, they do not. However, my utopic view of Ubrique was dented just a week later when the father of my friend´s boyfriend attempted to kill his wife and son by burning their house to the ground. Fortunately, niether his wife, nor his son were home. Almost exactly a week after that, my roommate informed me that one of her dear friend´s dad had committed suicide. Meanwhile, the world is in the worst economic state any of us can remember. Tensions between Israel and Palestine are at an all time high. Various countries continue to deprive and exploit their citizensl. Frankly, the world is falling apart. And I am disgusted by people.

Moral of the story: WAKE UP PEOPLE! Stop standing on the sidelines while we destroy each other. Stop thinking that someone else will step up and solve the problem. one else is going to take the initiative. It is up to you (and me, of course). The world is destroying itself, not because of global climate change, but because of corruption, violence, and mutal disrespect for each other. Do not worry, the bubonic plague has long passed. In its place, however, a more dangerous and more threatening plague has arrived. Its name: apathy.

Oh wait, you can take comfort because our new President has promised us "change." Oh! The word of the year! Change! Change is coming! Change is upon us! He will bring change! Unfortunately, it is not up to him. And unfortunately, the world, and Americans, have decided that we can leave it up to him. HE will bring change, and HE will make everything okay. I find it difficult to place such high expectations on one person, while the rest of the world sits back and does nothing. Apathy. It is a terrible thing. Perhaps if EACH of us would take a moment to re-evaluate ourselves and our world, we could all start to initiate some change. Together, we can move in a positive direction. You just have to decide to actually do something. So, stop reading my blog. Go buy a stranger a coffee and see the smile on their face. Money tight these days? Why not spare 99 cents and treat a homeless fellow to a hamburger from McDonalds. I think you can spare that. Don´t want to get involved in what you see? Perhaps if you had called the cops, you could have saved that man. Or stopped a burglary in process. Or who knows what. Next time, pick up the phone. You would do it for your parents, you would do it for your friend, so why not do it for a stranger? We are all in this together, or at least that is how I see it.

Okay, lucky for you, I am done complaining, evaluating the world, and lecturing. I will leave you with the following to contemplate:

"Changes come from the power of many, but only when the many come to form that of which is invincible - the power of one." (The Power of One, 1992).