There is much more to Orgiva’s annual feria than tradition and doing things the way they’ve always been done. The four-day festival that celebrates this rural town’s history and culture is as eclectic as its community.
Without getting too teary-eyed about the significance of the giant paella, the massive free portions of which would set us back several pounds at most community festivals we’ve enjoyed in London, or of the tradicionales huevos fritos con ajos (fried eggs with garlic) handed out with bread in the main square, the egalitarian nature of feria reminds us of what is possible for a society.
Floats and flamenco dresses, elderly locals in their finest (new sombrero plano for him, a splash of colour for her), ex-pats keeping the pop-up bars busy. That they are juxtaposed with the powerful Brazilian and afro-Cuban drumming rhythms of Espíritu Santuka is a tribute to Orgiva’s diversity.
Another feria highlight, the carrera de cintas, a traditional sport in Spain and Latin America where contestants ride horses (though it is done on bicycles too, apparently) to a wire to try to capture a belt or ribbon hung from a loop, underlined the difference between equestrian activities here and in the UK. This wasn’t a gymkhana for privileged youngsters. These were working class men, racing their animals on a patch of waste ground in the middle of a housing estate (and no one at the council tried to stop it on ‘elf and safety grounds).
It’s difficult to spend money during feria. Most events are entrada gratuita. Only the Friday evening espectáculo ecuestre – the Andalucian horse dressage display – carried a charge. Not that anyone bothered to collect the €3 entrance fee from spectators. But I hope the hat was passed around for the €2 entrada solidaria at the theatrical production, money intended for Orgiva’s food bank.
As if four days of festivities was not enough for this town, we learn that Monday is another bank holiday, a fiesta in honour of Nuestra Señora del Pilar – the Patroness of Spain, the Guardia Civil and neighbouring town Lanjarón. There’s a saint for everything and everyone here. Any excuse for a party.