The Grotesque Wonderland of Las Fallas de Valencia

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I followed the white rabbit and here I am Valencia’s own Grotesque Wonderland. Funny and full of color, the imagination towers and looms above the heads of the people crowding below. Creatures from children’s books, dreams and fantastical lands. Princess, flowers, beauty and elegance.

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Everywhere there are lights, like thousands of worms, flickering in the night. Explosions in the sky, and thousands of stars trickle down, showering the river in gold.

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All that is beautiful and good in the world, is here, brighter than usual and larger than life. There is the Eiffel tower, Paris in all its glory and at the end, in a blaze of color, a couple in black and white dancing. Is it right for people to have taken the world, created by God or by chance and made it so much better? My neck aches and my eyes drink in the wonders. This is real and I still can’t believe it.

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Beautiful girls and women walk around the city with flowers. Their journey has been long. From all four corners they have come and with their flowers the dress of the Virgin Mary takes shape. She is protective and oh so beautiful! Red and white, red and white, the fabric is lush and fragrant. It cascades down, like nature’s own velvet waterfall.

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But beware, in a world where there is good and joy, there must also be evil. The sky is getting darker and eyes grow colder. The light goes down and then we see. We see the Devils, the imps and the monsters satirically laughing and leering at us. Faces become menacing and reproachful.

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Thunder and lightning. We hide behind others. Here they come, they approach. Their tails flick, their ears are red, like the color of the fire which they spit and twirl. The noises are terrible, loud bangs, my ears will explode and so will my heart.

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The whisper goes round. It is time. The jury have given their verdict. It is time. The condemned stand stone still, the plebs stand greedily close. The fuses are light. The beauty, the ugliness, nothing is exempt. We have created, we can destroy. Today, if only today, we are the Gods of this Earth.

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It begins. One by one, they fall. We watch in horror and awe. Our faces are scotched by the heat. Shrieks and creaks, hands reach up out of the flames. Mercy they cry. But tonight, they will get none. The fire fills the plaza and licks dangerously close to houses and great buildings.

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The dream and the nightmare are over, reduced to ash and when I wake up nothing is left.

Las Fallas is a traditional celebration held in Valencia to commemorate Saint Joseph. Each neighborhood of the city has an organized group of people, the Casal faller, that works all year long holding fundraising parties and dinners, usually featuring the famous dish, paella, a specialty of the region. Each casal faller produces a construction known as a falla which is eventually burnt. The fallas are constructed according to an agreed upon theme that has traditionally been, and continues to be, a satirical jab at anything or anyone who draws the attention of the critical eyes of the falleros—the celebrants themselves.

The five days and nights of Falles are a continuous party. There are a multitude of processions: historical, religious such as the offering of the flowers to the Virgin Mary and comical. Crowds in the restaurants spill out into the streets. Explosions can be heard all day long and sporadically through the night. Huge firework displays, the fire parade, la Mascleta and the burning are just a few of the highlights of this extraordinary festival. 

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