Thursday 9 Oct, 2014

Spanish Events That Make a Splash

When you’re learning a new language, it helps to fall in love with where it’s from. One great way to make that happen for your students is to expose them to exciting and unexpected cultural events that bring to life a country’s unique heritage and spirit.

The six events below are just a small sample of annual events in Spanish-speaking cities that we think your students will be excited to learn about (and even more excited to participate in).

La TomatinaAs a massive food fight festival in Buñol, Spain, this is one opportunity where playing with your food is encouraged. Each year, La Tomatina brings tens of thousands of people from all around the world to this tiny city, greatly expanding its population of 9,000 people. The festival itself lasts only one hour—and officially starts when someone reaches a prized ham resting atop a two-story high greased wooden pole—but by the end, more than 150,000 tomatoes are splattered on the streets, on the buildings, and most importantly, on the participants.
The Encierro (Running of the Bulls)During the festival of San Fermin, held every year between July 6-14 in Pamplona, Spain, there’s one event that’s more famous—and tiring—than the rest. The Running of the Bulls. Although this tradition has taken place for hundreds of years, it didn’t get popular until Hemingway described it in his novel, The Sun Also Rises. This footrace involving six bulls, six steers and a couple hundred people running down a half-mile stretch of narrow streets, all started when bulls were being transported from outside the city to the bullring. People eventually started jumping in to run with them and get them there faster, and the rest as they say, is history. Now, similar runs are found all throughout Spain, but none more famous than the Encierro.
Carnaval de PonceEnding the day before Ash Wednesday, this one-week festival in Ponce, Puerto Rico is one of the oldest carnavals of the Western Hemisphere, dating back to 1858. Loud and colorful parades, marching bands, dancers and floats, are just some of the reasons this family event brings more than 100,000 people to the area. But it’s the appearance of “vejigantes”, a colorful costume representing the devil, that really gets people in a frenzy of excitement.
Dia de los MuertoDating back 2,5000-3,000 years, this Central America holiday is a time for close friends and family to pray and remember loved ones who have passed away. Taking place on October 31 through November 2, it’s a chance for the deceased to come back and revisit the ones they’ve left. Friends and families will often create private altars containing marigolds, the flower of the dead, as well as the deceased’s favorite foods and beverages, and personal photos and memorabilia to welcome back their lost relatives.
TamborradaMusic lovers rejoice! Head to San Sebastian, Spain on the night of January 19, when the entire city is filled with the sound of drums. For 24 hours straight, adults dressed as cooks and soldiers march in different companies across various parts of the city to celebrate the patron saint of Donostia (the original city name from the Basque language). And like many of these other festivals, the origins remain unclear. The most popular explanation: it started in the 1700s when a group of young girls started banging on a baker’s water barrels and started an impromptu jam session.
Fiesta del MaizHead to Sangolqui, Ecuador for a two-week celebration—all in the name of corn. This “a-maiz-ing” festival has been held every year since the 1960s to celebrate the harvest season for locals and visitors alike. Participants can enjoy a Corn Queen competition, special drinks made from different types of corn, folk parades, and various singers and marching bands. There are also painting and ceramic competitions sponsored by Sangolqui’s College of Architects as well as traditional fireworks, bullfights and cockfighting.