August is the special month for vacations. It is the month selected by many Extremeños for a homecoming into their old towns. It is also, the place selected by many travelers to stop in the North of Extremadura. This is a region that is in the north west of Spain, close to Madrid and close to Portugal. With its many beautiful towns and scenery it is like a waterfall that flows from Galicia to Andalusia. The calendar of August, during its 31 days, concentrates some of the most interesting and unique festivals of these districts. The neighbors of the North of Extremadura, who are among the friendliest people in Spain, are interested in maintaining alive their traditions and making other people participate in these traditions.
Big Sunday at Ahigal, first Sunday in August
There is a street open market in Ahigal, each and every Sunday of the year. These are very popular and traditional markets. However, on the first Sunday of August, these popular markets convert into a real Festival, at this town in the Tierras de Granadilla. The sales people dress up in medieval clothes and some of them dress up as shepherds and they are able to create a unique ambient at this Domingo Gordo (Big Sunday) or Medieval Market.
Among the stands some are really surprising, like the merchant of relics and his antiques from old Christianity. At this stand they offer objects such as braids or other relics made of hair and magic concoctions. There is no respectable Fair with out food and drinks. The Domingo Gordo has its own special canteens.
This medieval market starts around ten in the morning and it will continue until about two o’clock in the afternoon. The night before the town celebrates a parade with torches around 22:30 hours, which will end up at the Plaza Mayor with a theatrical performance.
The Serrana of La Vera at Garganta la Olla, on the first week end in August
During the first week -end of August the town of Garganta de La Olla, remembers a person who was known as the “Serrana of La Vera”. The resented figure of Isabel Carvajal, after a failed marriage to the “would be” Bishop of Plasencia is the center of the festive activities organized by this town in the district of La Vera. During two days, there is a series of markets, musical rounds, tasting of typical food from this region and guided tours to the cave where Isabel hid and took refuge after she became a victim of failed love. The people from this town participate in a drama that depicts the romance of La Serrana. It is the homage of the people to a literary figure who is known outside of Spain.
Pino Marro at Descargamaría, from August 5 to August 9
Descargamaría welcomes August with the celebration of Pino Marro. Keeping with the tradition the neighbors of this town chop down a large Pine Tree, of more than 20 meters in height from the mountains of Sierra de Gata, surrounding this village and move it to a place called Las Erías, which is about one kilometer away from the place of the felling. The tree will remain erected at Las Erías for the duration of the festivities, crowned with the flag of Marro. After the festivities the Pine tree will be pulled down.
Popular games such as the Rayuela, the Barra and the Marro are played during the festivity. And the music of flutes and drums, which are traditional to the region, is heard.
Martes Mayor (Major Tuesday) at Plasencia, on the first Tuesday of August
The weekly market that is held in Plasencia, all year around for centuries now, on the first Tuesday of August, converts into Martes Mayor (Major Tuesday). This is a celebration that has been declared of Regional Touristic Interest and gathers hundreds of residents and visitors. More than 200 stands are spread out in the Plaza Mayor and the historical center of the old town. They offer all kinds of goods, such as fresh produce from nearby farms, locally processed agricultural goods, local handy crafts, and dress accessories. This is combined with amusements for children and popular music of drummers in the background.
The festive ambient actually starts on Monday at sundown, when the salespeople set up their stands in the most beautiful corners of this medieval town. Many are attired for the occasion in regional costumes and also costumes that represent a past historical era, to add to the ambient. However, the principal event of this fiesta is a concert held at the Plaza of the Cathedral with popular artistic figures. It is said that they are singing at the feet of the Mayorga Grandfather, which is a human figure standing near the bell and the clock of the Cathedral tower. With the passing of the years, this figure has turned into the icon, which represents the city of Plasencia.
Martes Mayor (Major Tuesday) is a celebration that remembers that Plasencia has been doing its weekly market since it was founded back in the XII Century. This market is a perfect symbol to remember the close ties between the people of Plasencia and their neighbors from the other towns of the North of Extremadura. Many approach Plasencia for this historical date.
The Trastos Flotantes (Floating Things) at Cadalso, on the second Saturday of August
The fiesta of the Trastos Flotantes or Floating Things is held in Cadalso, on August, at the shore of river Árrago, which crosses the Sierra de Gata. This celebration was started four years ago by the neighbors and other people that have roots in this town and return every year to spend summer vacations. It is a celebration, which is full of fun, and consists of making all kinds of outlandish floating vehicles. They are manufactured with great imagination. Placed in the water, the most creative and fastest vehicle wins the contest.
The exact dated of the celebration varies, depending on the state of the waters of river Árrago, which is the natural scenario of this celebration. However, it is always held in August.
The Robo de la Albahaca (The thef of the basil) at Aceitunilla, on August 14
The village of Aceitunilla is located in the province of Cáceres. Which is in the North of Extremadura, in Spain. It is a small town, with population around 150 people and celebrates one on the most colorful events of the region. The Robo de la Albahaca (The Theft of the Basil) starts, every year, on the afternoon of August 14 and continues well into the night, or until the first hours of the morning. The main character of this celebration is the basil. This is a herb that is associated with courtship, fertility and sensuality by the local population.
The music of the drummers along the streets of this village of Las Hurdes sets the beginning of the long night. When the drummers stop their music, all the women leave the streets and go into their homes. The men dine together and wait until the clock marks midnight. This is the moment when they start looking for the Basil, which is cared by the women during the whole year. Sometimes the herb is hidden in unusual places. When the basil is found they decorate themselves with the plant and continue to party, they call on the doors of the women to ask for liquor and buns and rolls to satisfy their hunger.
The uniqueness of this celebration has taken many locals to ask for it to be declared an Asset of Cultural Interest.
La Vaca de Fuego (The Fire Cow) at Hervás, on the long week end of August
The Fire Cow runs in Hervás every year in August, during the celebrations of the Fair of this town in the valley of River Ambróz. But in reality, the cow is person that emanates fireworks from the upper region of his body, running along the streets following and surprising neighbors and visitors.
The cow makes its rounds while the orchestra that plays during the fair, makes a recess. And it appears every single night during the Fair. To run in front of the Fire Cow, for the people of Hervás, is kind of a ritual, which shows that you are no longer a child. The Fire Cow is repeated in September, during a celebration in honor of Jesus Christ.
La Enramá at Pinofranqueado, during the end of August
The town of Pinofranqueado, celebrates during the end of August one of the most unique customs in the region of Las Hurdes. Which is in the Province of Cácers in the North of Extremadura in Spain. This fiesta has been declared a celebration of Regional Touristic Interest. La Enramá is an ancient mating ritual between men and women, by drawing of the lots. Participation is open to the people of this village as well as for anyone that wants to participate. Their names are placed in two different bags, one for the women and the other for the men. In a public drawing, the ballots are selected by chance and resulting in couples generated by luck.
The couples must act like if they were engaged until the day of the Ronda, which usually is on a Saturday. During this day the couples will march to the church and they will dance the Jota of the Arch. The men will wear on their lapel a corsage of wild flowers made by their pretended women fiancé.
La Cucaña de Baños de Montemayor, during the last week of August
The Cucaña, which is a long greasy pole, to climb is one of the main attractions of the Fairs of Saint Raymond and Saint Rose of Lima held in Baños de Montemayor, a pleasant town in Cáceres, of about 700 inhabitants in the Ambróz river valley, at North of Extreamdura, Spain. Celebrated during the last week of August. This pole is erected in the Plaza of the Town Hall, and it is climbed by any one who wishes to obtain the prize which is set, in an envelope, on the top of the pole.
Another attraction of these celebrations is the “pasabares”, which is a musical group, playing brass instruments, that will go from bar to bar, playing and singing “charanga”, to liven up the atmosphere for locals and visitors.
Tejiendo la Calle (Knitting the street) at Valverde de La Vera, during the whole month of August
Valverde de La Vera has a roof made out of crochet, during the month of August. This is an open-air installation to decorate the streets and protect people from the summer sun. The tradition, started three years ago, by the Asociacion Cultural y Juvenil La Chorrera and the architect and designer Marina Fernández Ramos, dresses up Valverde streets in festive ambient. They have been able to attract the cooperation of the people of Valverde and surrounding areas, of all ages, to help knit and embroider gigantic umbrellas. Using as a base plastic bags and hulahoops that are used as frames and stretchers.
The result is a fantastic artistic installation in a public area, which has attracted the attention of the Instituto Cervantes and the Instituto Göethe. They have been selected, in addition to eight other sites, to be summoned at Architectus Omnibus, which is an international meeting held in Berlin.
Valverde de la Vera is a town of the district of La Vera, located in the province of Cáceres in the North of Extremadura, Spain. The population is little over 500 people.
Original article by Pilar Armero
Translated by Susana Windt