Yes, I know it: we have already talked about bizarre Spanish festivals, but that time it was in rather unflattering terms... therefore I decided to show a different side of Spain. Helping me in this task there will be a dear, old friend who has chosen to live there some years ago. I have known Emanuela Cavalli for almost twenty years, and I can easily say she is one of the most brlliant people I ever met, therefore I trust her judgment as it was mine, and I urge you to do the same.
Today’s event is La Patum, celebrated every year in the Catalan town of Berga: the festival dates back to the Pagan festivities for Summer Solstice, and eventually assimilated elements of Christianity. Basically it is made of traditional dances and fireworks, but let us have Emanuela explain it:«Although at the very beginning I was mainly concerned with the historical and anthropological aspects of the festival, as well as with the evolution it has undergone since the Middle Ages, I immediately gave up my critical attitude. All the people in the square were united, as parts of a whole body, the music carried us away and the prevailing mood was of well-being and togetherness.»
As a matter of fact, the dances and the music of Patumare really unique, and the continual beating of the Tabal drum (Patum! Patum! Patum!) which gives the name to the celebration is one of its trademarks, together with the beautiful representations of giants, angels, devils and other bizzare figures. «The part I will never forget – Emanuela goes on – was when a hundred people in colourful costumes were moving in the middle of the square. They looked quite strange at first sight, but then I realized how beatiful their masks were: we were walking in circles, trying not to be trodden on, when, all of a sudden there was silence... Then I heard strong explosions and everything went red and scary, while the drum implacably kept on beating time! Music got louder and louder, covering the shouts of the people, while the smoke almost suffocated me and turned everything into a circle of Hell!»
Emanuela also says that the festival is becoming more and more popular across the borders of Spain, and that it involves the whole township, young people included, who show great interest in their rich cultural heritage. She also recommends to visit the Museum of Berga, where skilled restorers take care of the masks and costumes of the festival, which has been declared Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2005.
As usual, our column ends with the words of our guest:«La Patum is awesome. Seriously. The moment of the last dance is a rush of adrenaline: few seconds seem to last forever! I didn’t know whether I wanted it to stop or to go on... you have to experience it to understand it. A couple of people told me that they were attending La Patum for the third time, because once you start you can’t stop... I think they were right!»
Very special thanks to Emanuela Cavalli for her kindness and for the pictures.