Spring in Spain

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Well, next up on The World and Everything in It, it sure doesn’t feel like spring in much of the northern United States. A late-season snowstorm blasted the region —  grounding planes, closing schools, and blanketing daffodils that bloomed early.

NICK EICHER, HOST: But on a recent visit to Spain, WORLD Radio’s Susan Olasky found one city that likes to welcome spring with a bang. She brings us this report.

AUDIO: Band in crowd

SUSAN OLASKY, REPORTER: Valencia, Spain, is a city of 800 thousand on the Mediterranean coast. Its central area consists of narrow bricked streets lined by stately five and six story apartment buildings with wrought iron balconies.

From March 15 to 19 each year, residents take off from work and school. Streets close. And enormous displays of wood and paper maché sculptures appear in most plazas. This year, maybe 400 of them.

It’s a celebration called Las Fallas. It honors local culture and St. Joseph, patron saint of carpenters. It’s marked by firecrackers.

The displays are also called Fallas. And the micro-neighborhood groups that commission and build them are called Las Fallas.

Between 350 and 400 of these community groups exist in Valencia. They are made up of residents who live on adjacent streets. And for a year they work on these elaborate satirical sculptures.

The individual figures on the displays represent political and cultural figures familiar to Valencians. To the foreigner they are mysterious. Like the 4-story blue and purple torso with a huge hand holding a pistol to the head.

By noon, people pack the streets near Plaza de Ayuntamento. We are wedged so tightly it’s almost impossible to move. People look down from their balconies.

A band plays.

We wait.

AUDIO: Crowd waiting voices firecrackers loud

For 2 pm.

AUDIO: crowd waiting voices firecrackers loud

For the scheduled fireworks at the Plaza de Ayuntamento.

Suddenly a call and response of explosions begins. It goes on for minutes–the goal is noise, not a display of fireworks.

AUDIO: Crowd waiting voices firecrackers loud

The celebration continues for four days. Fireworks fill the sky at night—and the week ends with huge bonfires as Las Fallas set their Fallas sculptures ablaze. And then planning begins for next March.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Susan Olasky, reporting from Valencia, Spain.

(AP Photo/Alberto Saiz) Monuments called ‘fallas’ burn during in a fire during the traditional Fallas festival in Valencia, Spain, Monday, March 19, 2018. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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