Sunday, contrary to all expectations, dawned bright, warm and clear for the San Marcos parade. This gave rise to an artificially heightened sense of festivity and anticipation to compensate for the damp and depressed air of Saturday’s wash-out, and the townsfolk emerged early and en masse to throng the streets.
All the bars had placed out on the pavements their tables and brightest sunshades, and the street merchants were parking up their hand carts at strategic points along the route, all laden with sweets and toys and topped by bunches of dancing balloons. Bunting fluttered merrily between balconies and everywhere was awash with colour and noise, light-hearted bonhomie and alcohol. The Spanish never fail to amaze me with their capacity to imbibe alcohol at an unspeakably early hour when I would still generally be looking for my third cup of coffee.
Petals, wayward flags, dead balloons and sweet wrappers adorned the streets, and small dogs zipped back and forth excitedly in the forest of legs, foraging for any small item of dropped breakfast. Young children, still at that point fresh, beseeched their parents for this and that, and generally succeeded as the adults bought them off so that they could chat and drink unencumbered.
Although the parade commenced (allegedly, but this is Spain) at around 08:30, I didn’t arrive until around 11:00. I therefore missed all the religious stuff at the front end with the small groups, looking solemn and pained (as indeed they might) carrying out on biers the very heavy statues of various saints to inspect the town and, presumably, to bless its gente (people).
After that came the multitude of floats, each entered by a peña or a bar or a business, and all attended by their retinue of supporters dressed in their huertano (countryfolk) costumes. Each float bore its own bar and food store, as well as a huge and thumping music system. The music emanating therefrom varied as much as the decor from float to float, and so the passage of a series of them gave rise to a discordant and disorienting mish-mash of aggressive noise which of course rendered it impossible to communicate with anyone.
The floats were each bedecked according to their own theme as they vied for the attention of the judges who would at the culmination of festivities award a prize to that one considered to be most eye-catching and well-executed.
To that end, we witnessed the passage of a wide variety of units, from the bucolic to the bizarre, the floral to the phallic… and yes, that is a rampant ram with his meat and two haggis on full and glorious display, and yes, that is the red wine tap.
The large groups of participating teenagers had being drinking solidly since first meeting up at the appointed time for the off. The procession itself had two speeds only – dead slow and stop – as each float apparently paused to pee up every lamp-post. So Bullas’ finest were already totally bladdered by the time I got to see them, and their once-pristine white tunics and pantaloons were dyed with red wine and were as much the worse for wear as their bearers. A hangover by mid-afternoon is a fairly serious state of affairs, I feel, and in this case it was probably a very good job that Monday was the May Day holiday.
The parade itself wound its way back to La Rafa for more partying and further consumption of paella. I joined up instead with a group of friends to partake of an extensive barbecue featuring roasted octopus, rabbit, chicken and pigs’ ears (well, two out of the four in my case, anyway), with some subtle music and good conversation, which wrapped up a pleasant day rather well, I thought.
My thanks to Gill and Avril for providing the photos – I regret that, when confronted with sights like these, I never have a camera (or a gun).