Monday, November 28, 2005

Shebam! Pow! Blop! Wizz!

It merits mention: those Valencianos really like to set things on fire, particularly if accompanied by loud noises. In short, they have fireworks for everything here.

The biggest holiday here is Las Fallas, which take place over the course of a couple of weeks in March. While the Fallas are technically in honor of San Jose (and I'm not on a Mac right now, so I have no idea how to make diacritical marks), they're actually an excuse to set things on fire. There are lots of parades starring papier-mache effigies. At the end of the whole thing, they put a few of the more elaborate ones in the Fallas museum, and the rest of them, well, they need to dispose of them in some way or another, and fire is as good a way as any, no? And once you're setting things on fire, may as well make some noise and set off some fireworks ...

This sounds an awful lot like Shamm en-Nessim in Port Said in Egypt, which is another springtime effigy-burning holiday, except that that one involves the consumption of a lot of rotten, ahem, cured, fish (and I'm not sure if it involves fireworks; I didn't go to Port Said for it.) The Fallas are sometime during Lent, though; maybe there's some connection? On the other hand, the desire to set large decorative items on fire must be some sort of universal human drive. Anthropologists out there: is that one of the qualities by which the development of culture is measured?

I plan on coming back to Valencia for the Fallas. Did I mention that I have research to do here?

Anyhow, yesterday, Julia and I walked around the ciutat vella, and after having gone up the Miguelete tower in the Cathedral, we walked around the cathedral proper. There was a baptism going on and, since they normally charge for tickets for a cathedral audio guide, and the baptism was in a chapterhouse-like chapel that would otherwise have been closed, we went. (Baptisms don't last very long.) At an appropriate moment, we left the baptismal mass to see the rest of the cathedral. When we exited the cathedral, the baptism crowd was there. And then they started throwing candy. This wasn't a piƱata's-worth of candy, though. These were garbage bags upon garbage bags of the stuff. And they weren't just tossing it into the crowd; they were hurling it. One of the candy throwers threw a handful of stuff to the left, though, and a second guy said, "No, no. Not over there. Watch out." (This was in Spanish, though.) I looked on the ground, and noticed that there was a large thing on the ground that looked like, oh, maybe forty feet of papery, thick electrical cord doubled over onto itself.

A second later, when the explosions started, I realized that the cord had been fireworks.

Today, we went to the center of town and went to the market (a nice steel-framed-and-glass thing with terra cotta decorations, from sometime in the nineteen teens), where I bought a few oranges, of all things, and took some photos of the hanging meats and piles of fruit. Then it was off to the Biblioteca Valenciana and the Archivo del Reino de Valencia, which are currently in the same building. The building is a sixteenth-century monastery (that's had a few remodelings) and it's a little bit outside of the center of town. It was built on an old Muslim stronghold.

I found an article about a series of paintings depicting the expulsion of the moriscos from Valencia in the library, and I wanted to get a photocopy of it, but they didn't allow copies of that particular item, since it was only four pages long. I found the same article on microfilm, though, and had no problem preinting it from there. So there.

In the archive, I found references for the books that list the confiscated real property of the moriscos dating from the early seventeenth century to well past the middle of the century. I managed to get through one of them. I also looked through the guide to the maps, plans, and drawings in the archive and found three things that could possibly be useful. There weren't a ton, though. Note to self: there are thousands of architectural drawings from the eighteenth century. Next time, I may jsut work on a later time period.

Tomorrow morning, I'm off to Madrid again. I need to pack up since I leave for Morocco on Thursday!


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