Every May 15th, many cities in Spain, particularly in Madrid, Extremadura, and Andalucía, celebrate the day of Saint Isidro, “the farmer”. Everywhere around Spain, people tend to go to the countryside, set up a picnic under a tree and spend the day outside with friends, good food and traditional music. Everywhere, except for one place: in Valencia de Alcántara, in Cáceres, things are done differently!
In this town, since 1958, the tradition is very different: the locals "bring the countryside to the city itself." The spectacle is so beautiful that it has been declared a "Feast of Regional interest". Women, men, and children dress up the traditional way. Some go on horses, with the cordobés suit. The horses are carefully dressed up, with garlands and blankets. Sometimes special couples ride a horse: the man will go in the front, seated on the saddle, and the woman will go on the back of the horse, legs crossed, "the amazona way". Some children are brave enough to go out in the parade by themselves, along with other adults.
Groups of friends gather together and set up a carriage, pulled by a countryside vehicle, such as tractor or so. The carriage will be finely decorated, with flowers, plants, and the people inside will be wearing the "typical farmer clothes". Men typically dress in black trousers, white shirt, and a red scarf. Women wear floral dresses.
Duty comes first with the church mass starting at 11 am. The honored is Saint Isidro, a Spanish farmer from Madrid that lived in the XIIth century. He was one of the first men to be made a saint, even though he was not a priest: he was happily married and had a son. He is said to have brought rain when needed, both when he was alive and after his death, too. Spain is a country with a lot of peasants, so his "cult" spread everywhere, especially towards the south.
In Valencia de Alcántara, on May 15th the scent of the yellow flowers fills the air. A leather boot full of wine passes from hand to hand: the feast has started. After the mass, the parade is organized. First, pass the horses: a proud rider, usually the one with the best steed, will be the "bannerman". After him, all the couples parade, riding on a horse. The carriages close the parade, and they go through the most important streets of the town, cheered by the other villagers. When it is over, the people from the carriage, go to the river to have lunch together. The ones on the horse, remain around, doing a bit of "showing off". By 5 pm, everybody dances the typical juéllega and other traditional dances at the pubs, while drinking and having fun. Teenagers, adults and elderly people come together; on May 15th there are no age restrictions. The feast is over by sunset; people need to work the next day. In the old times, the event was considered as a brief pause before they started the harvest season. Today, it is a beautiful display of colors, a way to show respect to the ancient traditions.
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