Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Its early in Valencia for fallas

The few of you that follow me on twitter would have realised that I have been very active. More than usual. The reason is related to my last post, and what has been happening in Valencia.
I mentioned last week that several schools of the region where without heating because they simply lacked the funds to pay the bill. Well last Friday students from one of those secondary schools called "Lluis Vives", after a local humanist of the 16th century, decided to go outside and protest about the fact that they are cold in the classroom and that further educational cuts are planned. The police charged, and that against students aged 12 to 17. Several students where arrested, and the overal strength of the charge was deemed disproportionate (Even the police union wants to investigate the use of disproportionate force). The students arrested remained in custody without charge for over 24h. Their parents outside the police station waiting for them to be processed. As Mònica Oltra, local politician and lawyer, puts it in this video "In a democracy we should be rewarding these kids that instead of being at home playing on their game consoles, are protesting for the right to a decent education [...] We have students that are protesting for the future of their country and the authorities do not know how to handle the situation".

At the heart of all this lies the incapability of the local government  authority Paula Sánchez de León who did not handle with sufficient importance the early onset of the portest. She was quoted that all of this was expected to be an "anecdote".  The latest news of today are that Paula Sánchez de León has opened and instruction on the police forces in order to determine if there was abusive force, and the responsible people will be held accountable.

The change of heart is due amongst others to the largest concentration of people ever seen in valencia to date. The whole city was this afternoon collapsed. Images of such large amounts of people blocking the city are not uncommon in Valencia. They happen, every year, during las fallas, traditional festivity during which fireworks are the key ingredient. We even have a firework display that happens daily on the town hall square at midday. Since its during daylight there is no use for colours, what matters is the sound. We call this firework display the "Mascleta". A masclet is the name in Valencian for a firework, but it translates to the diminutive of male.   The streets you see in the youtube video are the same ones that where filled today by peaceful people protesting for the lack of funds in education. And the sentence the two girls, the queens of the fallas, the same one depicted in the image that goes with this blog post. "Fireworks master, the Mascleta can begin."

Another tradition in fallas is that out of the fallas, which are also the structures of papier mache that are burnt on the night of Saint Joseph, two of the characters, called "ninots", are saved from the flames.
"Ninot" could be translated as male doll, but when you use it towards someone it has a negative connotation which is better conveyed in English as muppet.
The two indulged "Ninots" are chosen by the queens of the party, the same you see shouting in the youtube video. Well this year fallas came early and the two muppets that got indulged where Francisco Camps, which last week got a doctoral title in Law, and Ricardo Costa, both local politicians with a lot to say about the fact that local secondary schools are without funds.

As you can see in a city in which the highlight of the parties is torching sculptures, and doing firework displays in broad daylight, the people decided to relate to their festivities when the reality has become truly Kafkian. It is indeed early in Valencia for fallas, Saint Joseph is on the 19th or March.