Fish, birds and the Camino
New podcast! I was not meant to publish a new episode this week, but there’s something going on today in many Spanish towns that I thought was worth explaining. It has to do with the Carnival, or with the end of it, to be precise. In most cases it involves fish. We do things a bit differently here in Pontevedra. So no fish for us, but a bird instead.
I’m talking about el entierro de la sardina (the burial of the sardine), a celebration that typically takes places on Ash Wednesday and marks the end of the Carnival celebrations. The origin of the burial of the sardine ceremony is not clear; there are several theories. But we know for sure that it was already a very popular celebration is the 18th century.
El entierro de la sardina usually involves a parade that is kind of a mock funeral procession. Instead of colourful costumes, people wear black and the parade ends with the burning of a figure, usually a sardine.
As I mentioned before, we don’t bury sardines in Pontevedra and we don’t celebrate the end of the Carnival on Ash Wednesday either. We stretch the festivities a little longer.
If you’ve walked the Camino Portugués, you may have seen the statue of a parrot. It’s very close to the Peregrina church. That parrot is called Ravachol, and that’s who we bury at the end of the Carnival.
There used to be a pharmacy where the statue is now. The pharmacy was a meeting point for politicians, artists and scientists, among others. In 1891, Perfecto Feijoo, the pharmacist, was given a parrot, that turned out to be quite mischievous.
Ravachol used to be either in the pharmacy or outside, next to it, where he could watch people pass by. He soon became a very popular character in the city. His voculabulary was not the most polite, and he was said to be quite smart. He would call his owner if a customer entered the pharmacy or insult those who didn’t give him a sweet. And he would sing during mass times at the Peregrina church across the street…
Ravachol died in 1913, after eating too much cake soaked in wine, apparently! The people of Pontevedra were devastated, and telegrams of condolences were sent from all over Spain. They organised a wake and a funeral por Ravachol. The invitation to the funeral encouraged people to wear costumes. It was a huge event, with music bands, floats and a large crowd. In 1985, a group of people decided to re-enact Ravachol’s funeral during the Carnival. It was a great success and in a couple of years it become one of the most popular events of the Carnival in Pontevedra.
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