Silence echoes through lonely streets, in need of shade and people. A haze of heat simmers off the path as the sun smiles gleefully down from its throne up above the clouds. A few brave the heat to shop. Others, glide swiftly down the silent streets into shops. Few minutes later, they emerge with ice cream or something cold to sooth dry throats. Only a few shops remain open, inviting the brave to share the cold air within, and sell their goods, off course. In the heat, eye shopping is a must, or at least buy something. Umbrellas lowered, and chairs turned upside down on tables share the people’s annoyance with the heat. The air is still. No breeze. This is a typical scene in the towns in Spain. It’s siesta time.
Siesta, translated, means nap. During the hot summer days, between 2pm and 5pm, shops are closed and people hide away in their homes or somewhere nice and cold to rest. It is too hot to roam the streets. Some go out to drink a nice cold beer, but almost all activities halt. But siesta does not mean nap or sleeping. It is rather, a time to sit, relax and doze on and off, waiting for the heat to pass. In the most rural villages, it is almost impossible to find a shop open. You will have to wait for the afternoon, which is after 5pm. So forget, finishing work at 2pm to shop and drop, or mingle with the locals. Most of them are anywhere but the streets.
“Vergel de belleza sin par, son nuestras Islas Canarias que hacen despierto sonar…” Hear that? The streets come alive with the sound of folklore. Beating drums and a hundred footsteps mingle with the sound of wine-fueled screams and children running around in their colorful attires, echo along the streets. Women and girls everywhere, dressed in floor-length skirts, bright red, sky blue to black, with white long sleeved shirts tucked in, finished off with a matching vest, with intricate and detailed patterns. Men, come in black pants, and a sash tied at the hips, white shirts and vests. High in the air, against the backdrop of a clear blue and cloudless sky, colorful banners flutter about in the wind. From windows and balconies, flow green vines and more tiny banners, blue, yellow, green, white, red. From a rooftop, the streets look like someone splashed paint of all sorts of colors. The air is festive. The breeze is blowing and even though the sun tries its best to rule, people conquer the heat and stay out to dance, sing and mingle. It’s fiesta time.
Fiesta, translated, party, is the only time during siesta time, that people are out on the streets, despite the heat and humidity. It ends late. The Romeria is quite popular and is always in the summer. This is the only time; you will see cows, goats and horses being led down the streets, wine and food shared freely by farmers to the crowd. Then there is the Baile de Magos, where everyone is dressed in the typical attire, come out to celebrate tradition and culture on the streets till the early hours.
In Spain, these are two things you won’t miss to notice. Siesta and fiesta are elements of the summer timetable. When there is a fiesta, there is no time for siesta. And when there is no fiesta, there is only siesta. If you visit Spain in summer, ask for a typical fiesta, and they will give you a list, but don’t be surprised when you see the streets are empty as an abandoned town at noon. This is so Spanish. This is so cultural. And this is what makes summer exciting and a cultural learning.