Today I went to Logroño, a beautiful city in northwestern Spain. Janet went with me and drove all the way to Logroño (about 5 hours). When we got there, we were both starving, so we stopped at a little restaurant. The waiter, Miguel, served us tortilla (Spanish omelet with potatoes and onions), chorizo (Spanish sausage), manchego cheese (a strong cheese from La Mancha made out of sheep milk), and olives. That’s not our typical breakfast, but it all tasted really good. It was a “stick to your ribs” type of meal. A guy could get used to this.
After eating we got a burst of energy, so we got back in the car and drove to a little town called Anguiano, about an hour from Logroño. The town was tiny and it looked frozen in time! I felt like I had just stepped into the Middle Ages! It was unreal! People were gathered around a little church in the town square. There were a lot people and they looked like they were waiting for something. I asked a guy standing close to us, ¿Qué pasa? Then he told us that we were about to see something that takes place every 22nd of July in that town for centuries. I was more confused than I was before. I tried to get Janet to explain it to me, but Janet was in another world taking pictures.
We were apart of the crowd that surrounded the church. Then the man said, “Stand here and don’t move.” My eyes weren’t ready for what I was about to see! All of a sudden, four old men came out of the church playing drums, bagpipes and a dulzaina (double reed pipe). After a few minutes, eight young men came out of the church and began to dance around the square while the first four men cheered. Some guys were wearing colorful dresses and others were wearing bright yellow skirts. Some of the guys were dancing on stilts and others were playing castanets. But everyone danced around the little plaza to the rhythm of the music.
It was kind of hard to keep up with everything that was going on because there was so much going on at once. From what I did gather, the dancers would collect an icon and carry it off in a spinning dance down the steps of the church, down the hill, through the streets to the square, before proceeding to a shrine, where the icon is gently placed. It was unreal to see these guys, one by one, whirling around to the sound of the beat of the tamboril. Then one by one each man twirled down about 200 more feet of a steep cobblestone slope; falling onto the ‘cushion’ of the crowd waiting in the square below to crowd surf. Then each man returned up the steps again to repeat the process – again and again – as the icon slowly makes its way down into the main square. The most difficult part of the route, the a steep cobblestone street, a tricky path to walk on even in normal footwear. I could not believe my eyes! That was defensively one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.
On the way back to Logroño, Janet heard that this dance is a tradition, passed on from generation to generation, which is known to date back to at least the early 17th century. Some say it owes its origins to the stilts, which were once used to cross the area’s flooded and snowy terrain. The stilt dance is held each morning and evening over three day. It was definitely cool. I want to see it one more time before we head back to Madrid tomorrow.