Fallas 2012, Valencia

Not Hemingway's Spain: A flaming feast

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Spain's most fiery festival takes place every year in Valencia. If you haven't been there yet, read on - and you'll be making plans for 2013.

Here's a visual recap of the madness and glory that was Fallas 2012. Before I start with the photos, let me just say, this is my third Fallas and I'm still amazed how much I had to learn, how much I still have to learn about them. There is so much going on, one either needs to join a casal, be a fallero all year long, or live through dozens of them to truly grasp the level of detail and variety of activities that happen at this festival. (Note to self: Can Fallas be to "Not Hemingway's Spain" what San Fermín was to Hemingway?)

The Dirty Dozen:
I list them in no particular order, but these are the usual suspects, the must-see fallas that everyone was talking about this year.

(1) Ayuntamiento

As usual, politically safe but well done. I'm convinced they chose this
scaffolding design as a way to send the signal that, "We promise we didn't
overspend public money on Fallas this year. Honest!"

(2) Sueca

The real buzz for Sueca was its light display, but the falla was also good.

(3) Exposición

This was one of my personal favorites this year. From what I read, it was the artista faller's first time building a top category Falla. Well done!


(4) Nou Campanar
With a budget of 400,000€, this was this year's (and every year's) most expensive and largest falla.

(5) L'Antiga Campanar
While "only" half the budget of its nearby mammoth neighbor, L'Antiga's "Resurrection" theme was quite entertaining.

(6) Almirante Cadarso
In 2010 this was my favorite falla and discovery. While I didn't like their theme this year, I still loved their style and execution of it. They are definitely on my radar for future Fallas!

(7) Cuba-Literato Azorín
This was a big year for this falla, for them to score the 2nd place in the Special Section. And they also had an excellent lights display (see below).

(8) Na Jordana
This was probably the most creative and elegant of the top twelve fallas... Leonardo DaVinci and his creations. The beard was made of threaded wood,  a technique which is apparently a specialty of the artista faller. It won the "Ingenio y gracia" (ingenuity and grace) Award, and was well deserved.

(9) El Pilar
Their theme this year was fun: "Aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda." More than the overall effect, what I liked about this falla was it's many playful ninots (see below).

(10) La Merced
I'm still trying to figure out why locals always list this falla among the "must sees". It was alright, but I think they could have changed the orientation of it to better effect.

(11) Convento-Jerusalén
Something tells me I would have liked this falla a whole lot more if it hadn't been for the cramped viewing space and hoards of people. As is usual for it, the theme was bland safe, but it was masterfully executed.

(12) [Insert your local falla here]... For me, Trinitat!
My humble barrio had a good year this Fallas. The Falla Trinitat won 1st place in the "ingenio y gracia" area within its Sección 2A, and its falla infantil won 1st place in Sección 5. Go Trinitat!

La cremà, or what money looks like when you burn it...

How many years will have to pass for me to wrap my mind around it? They burn them!?! 
Na Jordana Crema
(The Na Jordana burning was incredible, with the flame going up and inside Leonardo's head. Brilliant!)

And then, with almost uncanny timing, it started to rain. Only 15-20 minutes after the Ayuntamiento Falla had mostly burned down it began to gently pour, washing away the ashes... How perfect is that?

Lessons Learned:

As I said, each year I learn something new, so why not share them. Here are some "deep thoughts" I had while living Fallas day-to-day...

1) Beware the Valencian liquor, anís de cazalla!!! Let me splain. No, let me sum up: I tried this stuff and let's just say I had a night to be remembered, or really to be forgot. (Santi, a.k.a. Obelix: Why did I let you talk me into trying it on an empty stomach?) This is strong stuff. Be advised.

2) Arrive to your Nit del Foc viewing party spot early, definitely not just 15 minutes before it starts. Hoards of people watch this - I heard a figure like more than half a million- and there is only so much hoards-of-people viewing space along the river. So if you are intent on watching it without being crushed by said hoard of people, you probably should go 30 minutes to an hour ahead of time and find a good, safe spot.

3) A real aficionado of a Falla goes to see that falla both during the day and at night, because it looks different. Sure, you wanna see them all. But try and see at least one of the good ones twice. It's interesting watching it transform from daytime-mode to nighttime-mode.

4) Go to the lights show in Russafa early (i.e. the night of the 15th), before the hoards of people make it a nightmare to visit. Really, Valencia's population doubled this year with all the visitors, and the streets around the Russafa fallas (and Convento-Jerusalén falla while we're talking about it) become impossible to navigate, and thus enjoy the sights. Be advised.

5) Bikes open up new horizons... like finally getting to see the Falla Nou Campanar! This and L'Antiga are really out there in the middle of nowhere. (Sorry Campanar neighborhood, just saying.) So it was doubly sweet to be able to ride my bike through the River Park and up some bike lanes to see them. It was worth the trip. But then again, any excuse to take the bike out for a ride is a good one.

And that's it. "It's over. Go home." Come back next year. That's right, it's March 20th, so everyone is back to work here (well, excepts those "en paro"), so there's no point in lingering. But don't worry! We'll be back next year, I promise, and the following, and the follow. So the good times will roll again!

Reprinted and abridged with permission of Not Hemingway's Spain. To read the full post, click here

Zach FrohlichOriginally from Austin, Texas, Zach Frohlich has been traveling between Spain and the U.S. for over a decade, and has been living in Valencia for the last few years. He is a historian by training and is married to a Spaniard. He shares cultural insights on Spain at Not Hemingway's Spain.

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1 Comment To This Article

  • nancy todd posted:

    on 25th April 2012, 11:54:38 - Reply

    Great coverage on Fallas, Zach. And of course the pictures are great.