Las Fiestas en Honor del Santísimo Cristo del Paño - Thursday 4th October
The Thursday evening of the festival sees the arrival of stalls and stallholders. We have heard so many reports of the thousands of visitors who descend on tiny Moclín during the course of this weekend. On the 5th October, between 10,000 and 15,000 can turn up, borne here by coach from all corners. If part of the festival lands on a Sunday, then 25,000 - 30,000 people can surge through the little streets. It has to be said that we were both excited and intrigued to see how the village would cope with such a flood of humanity.
As afternoon turned to evening, families began to arrive to stay with relatives who live here. Empty houses become temporary rentals for other visitors who come for the whole weekend. Prior to the festival, property owners and managers are out with the white paint and the scrubbing brushes to make sure that the face of the village is as perfectly presented as possible. Imagine our shame, then, whenever we pitched up to see our house, still under construction, held up by scaffolding poles and with cement dust coating everything within 500 metres!
We decided, after setting up our little gallery outside our casita and then taking a wander around the village to see the activity, to eat at Bar Plaza, just across the square from our place, and secured a corner table on the terrace, perfectly placed to people-watch. The little Coviran supermarket had just pulled down the shutters for the evening, and out-of-villagers were all looking rather at sea, as they started to feel left to their own devices. As we were closing the door on our pop-up gallery to nip to the bar, this elegant woman, who looked rather like Stockard Channing in The West Wing, approached us and, with a slightly desperate tone to her voice, asked if we were closing. Andrew and I looked at each other, and both thought that she must be desperate to buy one of our pieces of fine art, so didn’t have the heart to tell her that we weren’t, in fact, a shop. We dithered slightly, muttering that we had closed but could easily reopen, should the need arise, hoping that she would respond with 300€ for a painting. She then said “pan”, and then repeated it until we realised that one of our canvases would not be necessary, but an unsliced white baton was far more important. Next year, we decided, we would bake bread.
We saw Stockard Channing later that evening, at the bar, with some friends, all of whom were extremely well-dressed, swathed in silk pashminas and looking a little out of place, and decided immediately that they must have been rich Granadinos visiting relatives, and sampling a touch of rural realness. We also saw Sharon Osbourne’s doppelganger tucking into tapas at the bar, complete with a shock of red hair and staggering platform soled shoes. It was completely fascinating watching the population swell with all manner of people. As we took a turn around the village, we witnessed traders filling their stalls with sweets and bright plastic toys ready for the influx of beleaguered parents with children in tow.
Fireworks were set off in the square. There is absolutely no nod whatsoever to health and safety, and Sergio, one of our wonderfully helpful and welcoming neighbours, was bending over canisters of explosive lighting each fuse by hand. Almost as soon as the brief display had come to an end, Sergio and colleague passed through the square collecting the used fireworks and dropping them into plastic bags.
After dinner, we repaired to the Plaza de las Flores, where a huge marquee has been erected to encompass the stage. One of our favourite bars in the area, the Chiringuito de Mures, has been given the concession to run the bar in the marquee, and the burgeoning population converged here for the evening’s concert.
The stage was well lit, and there were enormous speakers that threatened to burst every eardrum within a 5 mile radius. Two serious-looking sound engineers sat at a desk and fiddled with mixers and gazed at four or five laptops, smoking furiously as they did so. Three young ladies took to the stage to present gifts to children, and an author of historic novels read a passage from one of his books about the importance of Cristo del Paño in Moclín. A young chap came and chatted, conspiratorially, to the sound engineers before gliding off, and before we knew it La Bravissima and Frankie took to the stage for their performance. The conspiratorial chap was one of the vocalists and he stripped off his Parka and grabbed his mic alongside his statuesque blonde co-singer.
Given the serious-looking sound equipment, I had thought we might have been blasted to the rafters with some meaty rock, but instead the duet, along with their keyboard player, launched into their version of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and then followed this with a medley of other Disney classics. We nodded our approval as we finished off our chilled Manzanillas and then headed for bed. We love this village, and this fiesta was already living up to its hype!