Fiesta de la Vendimia—Grape Harvest in Toro

As they pass you by, the parade participants hand out mini cups of wine, sloshing a bit on the ground … but who cares? It’s Toro and wine is abundant today. Others hand out slices of spicy chorizo or slice off some jamón serrano for you to sample. I was lucky, as I seemed to get more wine and food than the rest of my party. We called it the efecto guiri, the guiri effect.
Guiri Fiesta Vendimia Toro

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“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.


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My Adopted Village

Do you have a village? If the answer to that question is yes, you’re most likely Spanish, or—as in my case—an adopted Spaniard. Mario’s village is called Manzanal del Barco, and it has a total population of 156, according to the Spanish Wikipedia article. Now, unlike many Spanish people, Mario does not actually enjoy the village, at least not for long periods of time.

Nonethless, “hay que ir a veces,” at least to show la guiri what true village life is like.


So last Saturday, off we went, as there were several festive activites going on in our beloved Manzanal—even if there was only one real holiday, on May 15: San Torcuato. You see, every city in Spain, big or small, has its own patron saint, and Manzanal’s is San Torcuato (Saint Torquatus in English). And, like any great Spanish party, they extend it so that it goes on all week long!

We went on the 19th to hand out invitations to several of Mario’s relatives, and to see—what else?—the bulls. Now when most Americans think of bulls, they think of “running with the bulls” or bullfights. No, no: this was more like bugging a heifer. Seriously, it was not a bull. It was a vaquilla, or a heifer. A female cow. Actually several female cows, as apparently bothering them for too long isn’t nice, so there have to be more than one.


Not so bothered in this picture.

I won’t say much about the politics of bullfighting, nor this type of spectacle, but it’s not uncommon in Spain, and the whole village came out to see it.


This guy had to escape.


Waiting for their turns with the red flag.


Also on this trip, I learned of another interesting tradition: el mayo (maypole in English), which is a trunk that stands in the main square during the month of May. It’s made by cutting down a tree and then placing it in the main square, where previously a hole is dug so that it doesn’t fall. The also add another branch from a special type of oak tree called an encina. It’s a sign of fertility (oh goody!), because it stands for spring and new life.



Have you ever been to a Spanish village? What did you think?