“Typical Spanish”

I remember when, during my first-ever intercambio, I first heard the phrase “Typical Spanish.” I don’t recall what we were talking about, but the phrase stuck with me, not only because it’s not actually something that would come out of a native speaker’s mouth.

Spain is different. We know this. But what is, exactly, “typical” of Spain? Whenever someone asks my opinion on a village fiesta, no matter what I say, their opinion seems to be “typical” (“típico”). But Spain is so diverse: in language, in festivals, in culture, in people. So is anything typical of all of Spain? I’m not sure. But I think the pueblo may just be.

I wrote about Mario’s mother’s pueblo already, Manzanal del Barco. This weekend, it was time to visit Mario’s father’s village, San Cebrián de Castro, for the first time. (I know, I’m surprised I hadn’t been there yet either.) It was their Virgin’s day (yes, they have a village virgin), La Virgen de Realengo. So, obviously, there was a procession. Here are some photos.


Funnily enough, the priest nearest to the camera (who’s looking at it) was a religion professor at the school I was at last year.


While telling my mother about this festival, I neglected to mention that the virgin is, indeed, a statue. I told her, “They carried the village virgin around town.” In retrospect, this does sound odd.



Mario is enjoying carrying the statue. The men (macho, macho men!) took turns carrying it, because, uh, it is heavy!


Traditionally, all the children who have done their first communions during the year are in the procession, dressed in their communion attire. In Spain, the little girls, who are all of nine years old (usually), dress like miniature brides, while the boys often dress as marineros (sailors). This little girl was the only child in San Cebrián’s procession.


You can see Mario’s father at the right of this picture. As the secretario of the local cofradía (Wikipedia says: “A confraternity is normally a Roman Catholic or Orthodox organization of lay people created for the purpose of promoting special works of Christian charity or piety, and approved by the Church hierarchy”), he is in charge of things like maintaining the data of the members, correspondence, badges, etc. He is the man. Obviously.


After events like these, what else can you say but “typical Spanish”?

15 thoughts on ““Typical Spanish”

  1. Hahahaha…I laughed so hard at what you told your mom. I would be like, “WHAT?!” I don’t know much about what things are typically Spanish (although a different story with the Latin people of South America) but whenever my father in law speaks I think, “Typical French” (cause it’s really stereotypically romantic stuff)

  2. Small town festivals totally pull at my heartstrings – I love heading to Kike’s pueblo for cheap beer and hearty food! I just went to El rocío last weekend and loved it Part Feria, part Santiago de Compostela, part party at a bonfire.

  3. Haha! What did your mother say when you told her that? Is the virgin Mary, Jesus’ mother or is she a saint?
    Reading your posts makes me wish it was already September and time to go to Spain.

    1. She just got a blank look on her face, as we were on Skype. So I clarified. The virgin is just a virgin and a saint, La Virgen de Realengo …

      It will come soon enough!

  4. Wow, there is a neighborhood called Realengo in Rio. People say it’s the words Real and Engenho joined together. It was name like that because it was in the royal route that took to the engenho. So I never thought there were another Realengo outside Brasil..
    It’s interesing reading your blog. For an outsider like me it’s seems that the pueblos and villages plays big role in Spain. In south america it’s kinda took for granted.

    1. I’d never heard the name before in my life. It’s an odd Spanish name, honestly.

      I think that it depends on where you are in Spain, but pueblos do play a pretty big role, although “algo menos” nowadays. Mario’s family has a house in his mom’s village, so it’s easy to stay for a few days when they feel like it.

  5. How popular are these? I was led to believe that in Europe the great majority of young people (under 40 really and especially those under 30) are agnostic or atheist or at least non-practicing, even in formerly strongly Catholic countries like Italy and Spain? Do you feel that this is more of a tradition that’s being done simply because it’s a tradition or are the people who do it really genuine believers?

    Regardless, it’s lovely, and what is that flag there at the end? I know it’s not the Spanish flag but beyond that I have no clue.


    1. Mario says the flag is “el pendn” ( http://www.wordreference.com/es/en/translation.asp?spen=pend%C3%B3n ) and it’s from the cofrada of the village. It’s so big and heavy!

      I don’t really know how popular these are. It’s definitely true that many young people are not “practicante.” Nonetheless, many of them participate in village festivals like these — it’s more about the tradition than anything. Mario’s family is a bit more religious than most, so they definitely take part in events like these in their respective villages.

      1. Ah ok, thank you Kaley, that’s very interesting that each village has its own flag, I’ve never seen that before (in the U.S. each state has a flag, but that’s as far down as it goes, counties and cities don’t have flags).

        I take it that the dominate religion in Spain, by far, is Catholicism? I wouldn’t think that anything else is even close, Spain has been such a major stronghold for the Catholic Church for so long and all…


          1. Ok, that’s what I thought. How common is Islam? Surely it must be on the rise with the recent (last decade or so) of Muslim immigration to Europe in general, I presume that Spain is getting some of those (I know France has gotten a lot). How do people in Spain feel about that in general? Are most of them ok with it? Do you know which countries most of them are coming in from (I could be mistaken but I don’t think there are any Spanish-speaking Muslim countries)?


  6. Sometimes I feel so left out of these beautiful little pueblo festivals. Both sides of my novio´s family are from the city of Granada!

    1. Awwww, sad. Well, Mario’s mom and dad were born in these villages, and their parents left them either land (to his dad) or the house (to his mom), so they go back quite often, especially in the summer.

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