“FIESTA DE LOS PATIOS” IN EL PUERTO DE SANTA MARIA
By A.M. Ávila
Springtime in Andalusia is a wonderful time of the year. The weather is pleasant, the sun is out, and the flowers are blooming. Every Spring, the city of Córdoba, just like the city of El Puerto de Santa Maria, blooms into bursts of color. In 1918, Córdoba began its “Fiesta de Los Patios.” Emulating this admirable, and now traditional, concept, the city of El Puerto de Santa Maria began its “Fiesta de Los Patios” about 15 years ago. To understand why a celebration of this type was created, it is important to know a little about Andalusian architecture.
Due to the hot and dry climate, private, as well as communal, homes in Andalusia have always been built with a central patio. This is a tradition that dates back to the Roman era and continues to be a common architectural feature, even now, in many newly-built homes. Filling this central patio with plants and water-features has always been a way to keep local homes cool. As the main focal point of a person´s home, patio decoration ended up taking on a life of its own. These patios not only offered a visual feast of colorful flowers, stone mosaics, and ceramic decoration, but they also brought out the classic scents of the Andalusian Springtime: jasmine and orange blossoms mixed with a myriad of scents from many other flowers and plants.
As could be expected, individual pride in the decoration of these patios gave birth to a desire to share this beauty with others. Accordingly, the “Fiesta de Los Patios” was created. Fortunately, we do not have to travel to Córdoba in order to experience this beauty. It is difficult to imagine a house in the historic part of El Puerto which does not have a patio. Of course, there are many types of patios, along with different styles of architecture. Some are more ornate than others. All of them, however, maintain their historic, traditional, and cultural qualities. For some, they harbor the sweet memories of happy childhood. Approximately six hundred of these patios remain in El Puerto. Many of them are found behind unsuspecting doorways. Some are part of historical buildings, convents, communal homes, old palaces, or even monasteries, which were built long ago. Most feature tiled floors which provide additional protection from the summer´s heat. They are often the perfect location for enjoying plants, gardens, fountains, parties, dinners, or even some solitude. They provide a nice refuge as well as a common area for families to gather.
Although only a relatively small number of these patios will be part of the upcoming fiesta, they are vestiges of the past which the sponsoring association wants to preserve, protect, and share with you this coming week. The “Association of Friends of the Patios of El Puerto de Santa Maria” (Asociación de los Amigos de los Patios Portuenses) is the sponsor of this event which will be something equivalent to an “open-house” in the States.
Next week, the Fiesta de los Patios in El Puerto will begin with some introductory ceremonial activities to be held on Thursday the 23rd . This year, they will dedicate the fiesta to those persons who are deemed to be “heroes and heroines,” which group is considered to be that including every type of Medical Personnel imaginable.
Visits to the patios will be held on Friday and Saturday, the 24th and 25th, from 11a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. In addition there will be a variety of activities that will be offered in conjunction with these patio visits. There is a printable map that is available on-line. It identifies the homes with the patios that will be open for visits. At each participating patio, every visitor will be welcomed and offered at least a complimentary glass of local wine and, at some, even a tapa as well. Some patios will also have exhibits. For example there will be a photography exhibit at one, a painting and sculpture exhibit at another, and even a bonsai tree exhibit at yet another.
On Saturday, the 25th, the owners of some patios will host performances by flamenco dancers, classical musicians, pop musicians, flamenco singers and guitarists. On Sunday, the 25th, there will be a “promenade/cruise” throughout the streets of El Puerto, celebrating this event and featuring vintage automobiles and motorcycles. They will gather at the 24-hour Diner in front of the Harley-Davidson store at noon.
Also on Sunday, the 25th, at 2 p.m. there will be a Spanish tortilla contest at the Instituto Santo Domingo (on Calle Santo Domingo) along with a Flamenco dance performance. Everyone is invited to participate in the tortilla competition. This year there will be cash prizes of 175€, 100€, and 50€ awarded to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners, respectively. Anyone can compete but they must bring in their tortillas (in a disposable container) beginning at noon and, otherwise, no later than 1:30 p.m.
On Sunday evening, at 9:30 p.m., the Hotel Monasterio will host a dinner where Spanish “mantones” (shawls) will be required for the ladies and a carnation boutonniere will be required for the men. The cost will be 25 Euros per person.
The map and schedule of activities, in English and in Spanish, can be found at the Association´s website: www.patiosportuenses.com.es . Most of the patios will also be marked with a colorful apron hanging above the doorway. To see pictures of patios and activities which have been part of past Fiesta de los Patios, log-on to the Association´s website, or on to its Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/patios.portuenses.
There is no set route, nor order, which needs to be followed. You can visit all of the patios, or just a few. It is a great opportunity to discover some of the hidden treasures for which southern Spain is known, to meet some of our Spanish neighbors, and to enjoy their hospitality.
If you plan on visiting any of the patios, or attending any of the activities, our best suggestion would be that you park at the parking lots that are next to the El Puerto bullring, or at the parking lots that are near the Catamaran boarding dock, and visit the different sites on foot.
Relax and enjoy the Spring weather. We hope to see you there!