The celebrations in honour of San Jaime draw to a close over a very special weekend marked by two magical gala parades. This is what everything has been building up to. The months of preparation, the meetings, the fund-raising.
There are two parades and at first glance they may appear to be the same. But they are differences, both subtle and not so subtle. Some filaes have different costumes for each day, the best – along with the make-up – being reserved for the Sunday finale. However, the main difference is that Sunday’s parade is when the captain pulls out all the stops to present a full spectacular as they bring up the rear.
Many of the participants have been preparing all day for the evening parade. The costumes will have been collected from the specialist companies and individuals will be sorted through them to find the best fit. Sometimes a seamstress will be on hand to make some subtle modifications to make the outfits a little more comfortable. Some of them can be very heavy so the more comfort, the better. Make-up professionals will also have arrived to start working on many faces, the filaes often sitting in a wide circle as the artist moves from person to person, making subtle brush strokes or inserting coloured lenses for that extra detail.
As the day draws on, the nervous excitement grows. People help each other to get dressed; some of the more awkward costumes can only be put on with the help of another person – or even three people. Sometimes underneath the capes and gowns are special frames to spread the weight of the enormous headpieces. Of course, being July, it’s hot. But you daren’t wipe your face just in case you wipe off some of the make-up that has taken several hours to apply. But soon all the discomfort will be worth it.
As the evening approaches, the filaes gather in the narrow streets beyond the archway of Calle Pio X, making their preparations, helping each other out to make sure that they all look as fantastic as possible. It looks quite chaotic but there’s definite organisation. The leaders of each group – the ‘capos‘ – wander around, adjusting costumes, making sure everyone gets water and giving out encouragement to those who need it. And there are nerves a-jangling as the time for departure looms.
As one fila heads down under the archway to face the public, cheered on and applauded by the others, the next swiftly takes its place, the capo hurriedly arranging the lines, usually in height order to create an impressive impact. Once the volume of the previous band drifts away up the street, the next bursts into life, the drummers furiously beating out familiar patterns on huge drums whilst the lines in front begin to sway – or in the case of the Christians, bounce ever so gently. Final checks are made, other Captains help out directing the rhythm of the sway or bounce, faces become pictures of concentration, there are many wide eyes and plenty of nervous energy. By the time the director waves them down through the archway, everything is in unison and they all look fabulous.
A good place to watch is at the start as the filaes drop down the slope through the archway in Calle Pio X although it can seem quite chaotic. If you want a bit of space, head up the road (Calle Santisimo Cristo del Mar) opposite the dirt car-park and you’ll get some great photos as not only has the parade sorted itself out but also, a little further up, the filaes sometimes take a break and mingle amongst the crowd, excellent for discovering those candid fiesta shots. Be aware that you have to pay to sit in the plastic chairs which line much of the route. The alternative is to take your own chair and set yourself up at one of the less in-demand locations (such as that above) where you can watch this long procession (it can take over three hours for all the filas to process past) in relative comfort
On Sunday evening, just a few minutes after the last filà, the Captain Filà, has arrived at the end, fireworks are launched from the pebble beach of La Grava, the night filled with tremendous colour as the festivities come to an end for another year and the crowds shuffle home in to the night.
But the filaes are already making plans for next year.
Music plays a hugely important part of the fiesta and without it, there would be no fiesta. Bands come from all across the region to accompany the filaes (and they come at a hefty price too) and there is an element of competition between them to produce the best performance they can for their employers.
Each side has its own style of music with the Moors swaying majestically from side to side at barely 55 steps per minute – Los Moros Españoles is a perfect example and a favourite of ours – whilst the Christians bounce quickly along the street at a swifter 85 steps per minute; Creu Daurà is a popular choice for the filaes of the cross and, again, is one of our favourites.