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Santa Tecla – Spain’s Hidden Festival

Spain and Catalonia in particular, know they are at their best in celebrating traditional carnivals, festivals and marches throughout the country.

You have probably heard about La Mercè – a rich and eventful four-day jamboree in Barcelona. Some of you may have even been lucky enough to observe a huge masquerade in Sitges. Yet very few know about the Festival of Flowers in Girona. Today we’re heading to Tarragona, a small coastal town with a beautiful beach, breathtaking historical centre, and the incredible Santa Tecla Festival.

The Santa Tecla Festival takes place in Tarragona every September. Its origin traces back to the 14th century, but today it does not have the same religious meaning as it once did. The Festival lasts for a couple of days and includes diverse activities, culminating in the marching queue of different dancers, musicians, animal figures and giants. The entire old city is packed with a crowd, keeping a small corridor for the artists. The final pageantry ignites in front of the mayor’s office and then propagates across the whole town to the statue of Roger de Lluria in Rambla Nova.

This is where it all takes place. A view of the city of Tarragona from the beach in September, the month of the Santa Tecla Festival.

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Grown bastoners move quickly while jumping and knocking their wooden batons under their legs and above their heads.

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A crowd forms around the center of attraction, “Ball de Dames i Vells”.  It is satiric play with young women and old men insulting each other in a witty manner.

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The first group of the final procession is up to start fireworks.

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Children dressed in old clothes dance under a cloud of smoke and sparkles.

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“Mighty Cow” appears on the street. Inhabitants keep huge animal figures in the mayor’s house to pull out just for one day – Santa Tecla!

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A gaita player looks for someone in the crowd as he plays his tune. The gaita asturiana is an instrument quite like the bagpipes, native to the northern coast of Spain.

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The bird emerging from the flames once ran toward the people very fast, only to stop just in front of a frightened crowd.

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“Trabucaire” is loading her gun to deafen all around her.

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A giant-headed mayor salutes a young boy.

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The dancer in the air is carried and moved by the whole team. In the original part of this performance, the dancers made a chain holding long sticks in each hand and did not break the chain throughout the entire performance.

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Photography and story by Leonid Bovkun.

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