Spaniards are world champions in organizing folk parties. The little fishing village of Villajoyosa has one of the most spectacular, which has been declared as an event of international interest. The fiesta in the last week of July goes on for eight days.
Spain has a dramatic history. The settlement between the Moors and the Christians - Moros y Cristianos - is the theme of the fiesta in Villajoyosa as well as in many other Spanish cities.
The Fiesta in Villajoyosa is held from July 24 to July 31 each year. It starts with a procession where different groups showcase their weapons, their strength and their fine clothes. They march slowly and rhythmically to music, halfway forward and halfway to the side - three steps to the left and three to the right.
Women and men take part in equal numbers. The costumes are elaborate, colorful, magnificent and precious. The audience cheers when their "group" comes.
It is an honor to join the fiesta. Participants pay a lot to take part and for the costumes. They are organized in groups - so-called peñas - each of which has it's own role in the drama. They go together, they party together - often to the early hours of the morning - and they have a good team spirit.
Some peñas represent the Christians (the original Spaniards), some the Moors (Arabs who occupied Spain for 800 years), and other the pirates - Berberian pirates. But the hatred and controversy of the past exist no more. The groups appreciate each other. They are all actors and fiesta participants.
Most days in the fiesta have a procession. At the end of each procession comes a major driving device - a boat, a big animal, or a fabulous vessel with a chief, headmaster, or central character in history.
Chiefs and heads are often transported on elephants (artificial), camels, or horses. The processions start in the main street and end up on the beach. There are stands along the road and people sit in street restaurants or take a seat on the sidewalks.
The Fiesta in Villajoyosa has been arranged for 250 years. It marks the attack on the city of Berberian pirates in 1538. In the fiesta, the city is invaded by 30 "war boats" after a dramatic naval battle made with spectacular fireworks.
Early in the morning (about 05:00), the pirate boats start shooting at the boats Villajoyosa have managed to mobilize for their defense.
The fighting gets intense. The sound is deafening. But there is still hope. The pirates are stronger, but the Christians do not give in. The church bells call alarm, the kings from neighboring regions come to assist in the defense of the city with their troops.
The aristocrats take a stand at the castle on the beach. The pirates jump from the boats and storm to the beach where there is a fierce fighting game.
The battle ends with the Christians losing, as it did in reality. But the following day, the angel of the guard, Santa Marta, comes to the rescue. Canons and troops are mobilized to the beach. The Christians manage to drive away from the Moors and the Pirates (which for a large part were displaced, Moors).
Santa Maria's emblem flames up against the black sky far above the crowd (hovering on a large crane arm that is not visible in the dark).
The celebration of freedom is marked with an artistic and impressive firework.
But this is not the end of the fiesta. The last day is the children's parade.
Then vehicles with groups of parents and children drive along the fiesta route. The children throw sweets to the audience on the pavements.
The children have to run for their gifts. Some manage to get stuffed bags while others just grab a handful. The most cautious have to get a little help from their parents.
The joy is great when you can catch a candy bag.
More excursions: www.turideer.com
Excursion of the week: Fiesta in Villajoyosa.
Duration: 24-31 of July every year. Most days have a procession that starts approximately at eight o'clock in the evening in the main street and ends up at the beach. The sea battle starts at five o'clock in the morning, and the children's procession goes in the afternoon.
Tip: Book a table if you want to eat at a restaurant. Most days you always get a table, but during the fiesta it's full. The annual fiesta is a folk family party. Parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts and uncles gather to eat and have fun.
Suitable for: Absolutely everybody.
Get there: Villajoyosa is norht of Alicante and a few kilometers south of Benidorm. There are three exits to Villajoyosa (north, center and south) from N-332. During the fiesta it's difficult to use a car in the city center. If you arrive at the evening, you better park in the outskirts and walk. If you arrive in good time before the processions start, you can park in the parking lot under the paseo on the beach. Follow the signs to hotel Allon and then the south along the beach. The entrance to the underground car park is close to the place where the processions end.
Want to see more pictures from the fiesta? Scroll on.