The European Union Vs. Valencia

“The EU tried to put an end to the Fallas festival,” my friend Christopher told us. “They thought it was too dangerous.”

We all laughed. “Dangerous” is not a strong enough word.

I can just imagine a Spaniard in front of the EU trying to explain this festival. The Spaniard would start innocently enough by describing the Crida:

“Thousands of us meet at the Serrano Towers to kick off the event. There are speeches, fireworks. . .”

“What do you mean ‘kick-off’ the event? How long is this festival?”

“About 19 days.”

“Nineteen days? What on earth do you all do for 19 days?”

“Well, the daily event is the Mascletá.”

“The mask-let-what?”

“Mascletá. Accent on the final syllable. It’s a Valencian word meaning, ‘Pyrotechnic Event.'”

“Oh, like fireworks,” the EU rep would say.

“Not exactly. We shoot them off at 2pm.”

“How can anyone see the colors?”

“Oh, this isn’t about the colors. It’s about the sound.”

“You people like to listen to loud noises?”

“‘Loud’? I think ‘extremely loud’ is a better description.”

“How loud are we talking?”

“Well, you can feel it in your chest if you’re standing close enough. The windows vibrate.”

“The windows vibrate?”

“Yes, but they don’t break anymore. We’ve got better windows these days.”

“Isn’t that level of noise bad for your hearing?”

“Nah. You just open your mouth to equalize the pressure.”

Not being scientists, the political representatives from the EU let this one go. But the scientists watching the proceedings on television are thinking, “What is this guy talking about? Opening your mouth is not going to prevent hearing loss!”

“So you do this every day for 19 days?” the EU rep asks.


“And what happens at the end of these 19 days?”

“Well, March 19 is the Feast of Saint Joseph.”

“So you all go to church?”

“Uh. Not really. We burn things.”

“You burn things? Like in your fireplaces?”

“No. Valencia is a city of 800,000 people. We pretty much all live in apartments without fireplaces.”

“So what do you burn? And where?”

“Well, we build these structures in the streets and then burn them.”

“Structures? What are they made of?”

“Wood. Polystyrene foam.”

“Foam? Isn’t that a bit toxic?”

“I’m not a scientist. But I imagine scientists have looked into this,” the Spaniard says.

The scientists watching at home are thinking, “Yes, we have. It’s toxic.”

“We’ll look into that,” the EU rep says. “How much foam are we talking about here?”

“Well, some of the structures are 5 stories tall.”

The EU rep has just taken a poorly timed sip of water, which he now spits out across the table in front of him.

“You burn structures that are over 50 feet tall?”

“Well, not all of them are that big.”

“‘All of them?’ How many are there?”

“About 400.”

Four hundred?!”


“How long does it take to burn 400 structures?”

“A few hours.”

“Wait. You mean you burn them all at the same time?”

“There’s a schedule. We start around 8pm and try to finish by midnight.”

“Wait a minute. You burn 400 structures in four hours?”


“And you have enough firefighters to handle this?”

“As I said, there’s a schedule. The firefighters love this. It’s their busiest time of the year.”

“Let’s back up for a minute. Where exactly are you building these structures in a city of 800,000 people?”

“In the streets.”

“How do people get to work? How do children get to school?”

“Oh, well, most people don’t work during that time. The kids are off from school.”

“For nineteen days?”

“Oh, no. That would be crazy. Our month off is in August, like the rest of the Europeans. This holiday is just five days.”

“So you’re burning five story tall structures in the streets. In the middle of intersections.”


“What do you mean ‘mostly’?”

“Well, one of them is surround by buildings on three sides.”

“‘Surrounded?’ How close is it to the buildings?”

“Fifteen meters. Give or take.”

What?! How do you prevent the buildings around it from catching fire?”

“That’s what the firefighters are for. They hose the buildings down before and during the burning.”

“This doesn’t seem safe,” the EU rep says.

“We’ve been burning things in the streets since the 18th century,” the Spaniard replies.

At which point the EU takes a recess and Spain applies to UNESCO to get the Fallas festival on the “List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.” Once awarded, the EU is unable to stop the Valencianos from their celebration.

And the Spaniard is a little sad. He didn’t get to tell them about the Fire Parade.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Dominic Bonavolonta says:

    GREAT story! I WILL make to this event at sometime soon, I hope.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s