Tuesday, June 20, 2006


In fact not.

The balcony of the Plaza de los Fueros in Tudela was decked out this way, not in eager anticipation of an imminent Wayne Rooney unleashing, but instead to mark the Navarran town's annual week-long debauch, la Fiesta de Santa Ana, essentially a smaller-scale version of that more famous fiesta up in Pamplona (and one thankfully free of Americans clutching their copies of Hemingway.)

We drove into town − without any notion of what to expect when we got there − around this time a couple of years ago on our way back from old Castile. It was the morning after the night before, the big first night of excess, and there were not many Tudelanas on the streets, and many of those that were, were often quite literally on the street.

Prone or standing, everyone was wearing the only outfit to be seen in that week: white tunic and trousers, red belt, red scarf and a red Carlist beret. We passed a couple of small fashion boutiques and were left with the impression that this was the only get-up that you were actually able to buy in Tudela that weekend.

This year the fiesta will kick off next Saturday (June 24th) at midday with the chupinazo. Over the course of the following six days there will be music, fireworks, religious processions, gigantes and cabezudos and the usual range of trauma injuries resulting from the encierro of the bulls. They also have an equivalent of Guatemala's torito, the toro de fuego essentially a sociopath encased in a bull-shaped frame armed with rockets pointing outwards at all angles, whose effect on boozed-up crowds is rather like that of an armoured police truck with water cannon.

Incidentally, when Terry Gilliam was supposedly Lost in La Mancha, he was in fact lost in Navarra, shooting his unfinished Don Quixote in the then storm-sodden Las Bardenas Reales national park, which is just to the north of Tudela.

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