Have you ever heard about the Fiesta de San Roque or Peña Garnacha? It is an amazing, full of colours, sing and dance Spanish fiesta where whole families go out and enjoy the fiesta untill early morning.
I would like to take you on a journey to the beautiful town of Calatauyd, where we were singing and dancing while walking through the streets. I want to show how loving wine and especially how to love the Garnacha grape bring people together. You can see in the photos where I have tried to capture the moments of sheer happiness and good fun. And I hope you will share my excitement and feel the thrill ;)
Every August in Calatayud (in Aragon, near Zaragoza) the festival of San Roque takes place when ‘las Peñas Sanroqueras’ give a worship to San Roque. This year I joined my club during the fiesta to celebrate together with others and remember the Saint Roch. We would be staying with our dear friends Sharon and Norrel who welcomed us to stay at their home during the next couple of days.
Each club (a peña in Spanish) has a name and an assigned colour. Our Peña Garnacha is purple and, as the name suggests it is associated with wine and in particular the Garnacha grape that is widely cultivated in this area.
Other peñas are: Peña Rouna (black colour), Peña El Cachirulo (reds), Peña Los Que Faltaban (greens), Peña Euqor (blues), Peña La Unión (orange), Peña Solera (pink colour), Peña Nogara (white with dark blue), Peña La Bota (yellow) i Peña El Desbarajuste (white with red stripes). I will not write about differences between these clubs but at the end of the post you will find the link to San Roque de Calatayud where you will find more about all the peñas.
And now it is a time for la fiesta!
The madness had begun the previous evening when we met each other at the purple scene of the Garnacha peña for the warm up of music and dancing. We visited a few more ‘peñas’ but we decided to return home before midnight as we had to save the strength for the next day.
The long-awaited tomorrow came around quickly especially when the whole morning was devoted to the preparations: shopping, putting on club colour clothes, doing the purple make-up and packing snacks. Each of us was wrapped in white surrounded by shades of lilac, violet and purple. I simply adore these colours!! ;)
This year’s march toward the square, where we would be awaiting Saint Roch, started with singing and dancing. When we arrived at la Plaza de España some of the peñas were already there. In the middle of the square there was a “big fight” going on – the young people were throwing at each other eggs, flour, ketchup, mustard, milk and whatever else they could use! I do not know what the Spaniards see in wasting the food but it looked like a fun for them.
Other peñas were joining us one by one and minute by minute la Plaza de España was becoming louder and more colourful. I stood among others from our Peña Garnacha and absorbed all the energy that flowed from all these happy people. It’s unbelievable how thousands of them are able to gather in one place and have fun together.
Nice colours were filling me up with a positive energy and I hadn’t recorded even one face without a smile. The whole place was seemed to be a machine that produces the free positive energy. You can take plenty of it and the more you take the more you have to spend.
Everyone was eagerly awaiting the opening of the festival. This moment is called the chupinazo and during the opening the statue of Saint Roch suddenly appeared on the balcony and for a few minutes we were watching the fireworks and flying streamers.
It was also the loudest moment of the day as each peña strived to be louder than the others. The shouts, chants, sound of trumpets, drums, whistling and clapping seemed to have no end.
You can watch hundreds of movies about Spanish fiestas or read hundreds of books about the Spanish traditions but you will not feel it unless you go there and experience it for yourself.
The whole families that gather on the streets enjoying the time together are very impressive. It shows how their culture differs from ours. For me it was a truly beautiful experience and the first like that but surely not the last one.
And it doesn’t matter whether you believe in their God or not because when you are there on the Plaza de España with them you simply forget about the religion, you forget about the differences between both yours and their culture and you feel as you belong to this place, to this group of people where everybody is equal.
And you enjoy the time where you can show yourself by singing and dancing, where you enjoy your life at this particular moment, when you enjoy who you are, where you are and aware of all the feelings at this moment. This is something everyone should experience!
During the next hour the figure of St. Roch was crossing the square joining each peña for a moment who gathered around the statue. We were singing and slowly preparing to do the charanga dance in honor of Saint Roch.
With the statue of St. Roch at the head of the march we started our march through the streets of Calatayud. Sharon taught me the charanga dance and even if the steps very easy at the start I was yet to find out the consequences of making small steps on slightly bent legs. I would have to wait until the next day to feel the consequences!
(source: you tube; a short movie found in YT- la fiesta from 2012 San Roque de Calatayud; Pena Garnacha; I am not the owner of this movie)
We have been moving very slowly and I had the impression that we are stuck in one place as the streets all look the same. Five steps forward and three back, bending for a few seconds, turn around – after two hours I felt the charanga in every muscle of my body.
Apart from that we (the strong women!) were carrying the bottles of water in our delicate hands and the beer for our men in our handbags. With every bottle of water or can of beer given to me the handbag became heavier and heavier, my arms were beginning to ache and my tummy was rumbling for food, but the smile from my face did not disappear ;)
Two hours later we were a bit tired and decided to move away from our purple peña to the restaurant for some hot snacks. It was very good to sit down for a while after a few hours of standing and walking. And although the break lasted only a few minutes it was enough to re-charge the batteries. The proper Fiesta was just getting started!
With not so empty stomachs we re-joined our Pena Garnacha group and continued the charanga for almost another hour. We finally arrived to our pena headquarters just after 10pm and just in time for the home made Paella Valenciana! What would a fiesta be without delicious food? By the way I have never seen a paella that big in my life! ;) The queue of hungry pena members seemed to have no end, everyone chatted happily with each other whilst waiting for the food and after a moment they were soon sitting down and enjoying the meal.
Once the meal was over the tables and chairs dissapeared quickly and the square suddenly turned into a dance floor where everyone regardless of age, began to dance and sing.
All around was purple. You can imagine the Spanish temperament mixed with a bit of alcohol and very good Spanish music. I have stored so much energy that I still have it in myself today and I am sure that it will be enough for me untill next August’s Peña Garnacha ;)
About 1:30 am the Starkytch group started their show. They played the ‘golden oldies’ and they even sang a few well-known English songs. It was a good show – both the choreography and songs were good and the performance amused to tears most of us. Unfortunately the battery in my camera went down and I could not take more pictures but from these (above and below) you should know why it was so funny.
The view of the children dancing together with their parents and grandparents was impressive. This is something I’m starting to miss, even though I have never experienced it in Poland. Because this is something we just do not have and something we simply cannot do – we cannot have fun just for fun. And you know what? I haven’t seen any police during the fiesta. Seriously, I didn’t see the police anywhere. There were no fights at all, there were no scuffles at all and there were no drunk people lying on the floor. Children were enjoying the fiesta everywhere around with all the adults keeping an eye on them. It was good fun and safe.
I cannot tell you when we left the party. We walked through the beautiful streets of Calatayud at least for 15-20 minutes and it was already the morning of the next day and I was not able to think about anything other than the pillow and sleep ;)
La Fiesta de San Roque lasted a few days longer. There was bull fighting (I am strongly against of killing any animals and I do not approve of any of it, I have never seen the bullfight and I’m not going to watch it, I ‘m also not going to comment on that part of the Spanish culture), people were dressing up, they were dancing, singing and having fun for another days and nights..
It was unbelievably amazing! The next August is getting closer, I cannot wait for the next charanga dance and the positive Spanish madness.
To all of you who are going to Spain for holidays I recommend stopping by for at least one day in Calatayud – it is a beautiful area and still a real untouched part of Spain with amazing scenery, people and interesting history. And if you have the opportunity to participate in the San Roque de Calatayud do not hesitate, just buy the tickets – the fiesta is worth its price!
More about the San Roque de Calatayud you will find there: http://sanroquecalatayud.com/
And information about Peña Garnacha are available here: http://blog.garnacha.org/