Hogueras de San Juan on Spain’s Costa Blanca

 

Español: Hogueras de San Juan de Alicante

The main fiesta on the Spain’s Costa Blanca in June is the Hogueras, celebrated in the week or so leading up to the Noche de San Juan on 24 June. Most of the towns in the Costa Blanca area join in the celebrations, but the biggest display by far is in the city of Alicante.
The festival owes its origins to pagan times and coincides with the summer solstice. Traditionally, old bits of furniture or other unused wood was burnt on bonfires. Nowadays, however, special creations, called “niñots,” are made depicting everything from cartoon characters to caricatures of local and national politicians, in a similar way to the Fallas celebration that takes place in March in Valencia.

 

Niñots in the Streets of Alicante

 

These are made by skilled craftsmen who spend all year coming up with the designs and building the models. They can cost thousands of Euros to make. The models are put on display in the streets of each town for a week or so prior to the 24th June. In Alicante, the models tend to be huge and very impressive. Prizes are awarded for the best ones and the winner is saved from destruction to go on display in the Hogueras museum.

 

Next to each model is an open air café where people who have paid towards the building of that particular Hoguera (or Foguera in the local Valencian dialect) can sit and enjoy a drink or tapas during the festivities. Quite often patrons will get up and dance enthusiastically, either to bands or to piped music. These bars are called “barracas” and some are open to the general public too.

 

Burning of the Hogueras

 

Then on the big night, all the Hogueras are set on fire, accompanied by fireworks from the castle overlooking the city of Alicante and along the port area and the cheering of the crowds who usually end up with a soaking from the fire brigade who are on hand to make sure that everything stays more or less under control. The children especially enjoy that part of the proceedings!

 

There are usually events such as giant paella making competitions, verbenas (open air dances) and competitions for the children during Hogueras week. A special beauty queen, called the “Belleza de Foc” (Beauty of the Fire) is chosen and she is expected to take a leading role in the fiesta plus continue with various civic duties through the year. Usually, the “Belleza” wears a traditional costume with a huge skirt and a lace “mantilla” or head-dress which are specially made and cost a fortune. There is also a junior “Belleza” and both are accompanied by two princesses.

A bonfire of Saint John, 2005

A bonfire of Saint John, 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The festival is very popular with tourists and locals alike, with huge crowds in the streets and a week long party atmosphere. Not to be missed if you are going to be on the Costa Blanca in June.

 

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Tilting at Windmills

Molino de la Ezequiela en el parque natural de...

Molino de la Ezequiela en el parque natural de San Pedro del Pinatar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Don Quixote is famous for confusing windmills with giants in one of the most well known novels in Spanish literature set in the province of Castilla La Mancha. However, he could have just as much fun with the windmills that are dotted along the Costa Blanca and Costa Cálida in southern Spain.

Windmills in Torre Pacheco

Many town councils have spent time and money restoring the windmills of the region, most of which date to around the nineteenth century. Torre Pacheco in particular has restored four of the fourteen windmills within its jurisdiction and plans to restore the rest over time. In fact, the Tourist Information Office in the town centre has produced a brochure for a ‘Windmill Tour’ that can be followed around the town and its surroundings. Every April, a special ‘Windmill Fiesta’ takes place where the mills are set working and events are organized explaining how the windmills were an important part of the agricultural process in the area.

The earliest reference to windmills dates back as far as the early 1300’s, when their main use was for the grinding of flour. The first documentary evidence that shows the existence of windmills in the Torre Pacheco area dates from the late 18th century. These documents make reference to a Mr. Felix who was given a lease of a flour windmill.

By the late 19th century, windmills were also being built for raising water to irrigate the land for the growing of crops, although this was mainly in the Cartagena area of Murcia province. Several of these windmills, sadly now in ruins, can be seen as you travel along the AP7 motorway towards Cartagena, south from Alicante.

Windmills in San Pedro del Pinatar

Another town with well-preserved windmills is San Pedro del Pinatar which has two, one either end of the walkway that heads out into the Mar Menor near the mud baths. The town is a very popular holiday resort and during the summer, the walkway between the windmills is filled with happy families ‘promenading’ in traditional Spanish fashion of an evening.

The city of Torrevieja also has a restored windmill, situated just on the outskirts of the main town centre which was unfortunately recently vandalized. However, the town hall and the family who have been responsible for the upkeep of the windmill for many years worked hard together to restore it once again, although the sails themselves have not been replaced.

These windmills are an integral part of the history of agriculture in the region, as well as being beautiful to look at, so saddle up Rosinante, sharpen your lance and head out to have a look!