The streets of downtown León consist of small alleyways with a plethora of stores and taverns. People, tourists and locals, crowd the streets in clustered masses. Walking through the crowds is a task by itself, and when you’re trying to find a certain place, it’s difficult enough to navigate the streets. As a non-local, the streets are a confusing labyrinth of curved turns and branching paths that make unexpected turns in the opposite direction you would think.
I find myself lost, and in the confusion, I get swept up in a current of people walking the same direction. Their movements are patterned to each other, a slow tempo walk. They make two rows, a candle in each person's hand. There’s a momentary pause, a brief stop in the march. The deep sound of drums heralds a rising swell of horn instruments. The music is a somber sound, setting a slow step for the crowd. Leading the group is a single man holding a giant cross and accompanied with two women holding long candle holders. Bringing up the rear of the procession is a rolling float of a haloed Mary holding baby Jesus. Its base is a collage of white, pink, and purple flowers. Four candle holders jut out from the flowers, five bulbs holding candles on each one.
The band stops playing, and the white hatchback driving in between the two rows blares verse from a speaker. Voices rise in song, and the crowd is in full chorus together. When the verses end, the marching band starts again. We continue like this for more than an hour, winding through streets until reaching calle de Maria Teresa. People gather around the opening of a church, and the hatchback reads out more verse in Spanish. There’s less people in the crowd than when the procession started, but I feel the heavy atmosphere of a significant event. The crowd puts away all of their electronics and listen to the priest’s words. I watch some of the older women weep as they repeat them
There is silence. The float makes its way to the church’s opening, and the 4 men wheeling it attempt to push it through. After a few attempts, it passes through the threshold. There’s a clamour of cheers from crowd, but the group quickly disperses. Some enter the church, and the others walk off. I’m left alone, lost in León.
A few days ago, our company of wondering vagabonds visited the medieval city of Covarrubias. The town is located 26 miles south of the Castilian city of Burgos; that Sunday the city was holding a medieval fair. Being the good Catholic that I am, I decided to spend my time in Covarrubias attending mass. Before the service had started I noticed there where nearly three rows reserved for people, however I thought I was just for prominent members of the community. How wrong I was. Out of nowhere I hear the sounds of horns and drums. A procession of men, women, and child dressed in full medieval grab; there was even a King and Queen. Following the town’s people where the musicians, who playing a “grand tune” while they circled the interior of the small church. Then all went calm.
Then the priest and deacon entered the church. The choir then began to sing, followed by the rest of the church till the entire hall was filled with the sound of many voices singing the same holy hymns. The rest of the mass was pretty standard stuff; that is the great thing about being Catholic, mass is pretty much the same wherever you go. When the mass was coming to an end, the priest tried to say the ending “Concluding Doxology,” but the choir would not let him. Instead they sang for nearly fifteen minutes while the priest stood there waiting for them to finish their joyful songs. It reminded me of a line from Don Maclean’s famous song, American Pie (it also happens to be my favorite song), “the players tried to take the field, the marching band refused to yield. Do you recall what was the feel, the day the music died?”
When we were venturing through the town of Covarrubias, I witnessed a parade of medieval characters marching through town. First in was a high lord clad in chainmail, dawning a white cloak and the sigil of his house on his chest. By his side was his wife wearing a blue and gold silk dress. A red jester, juggling a broom between two sticks scampered by in his striped purple pantaloons. A young lord, lathered in colors of his family’s house who was also wearing a white cloak, followed the lord. Holding the hand of this handsome young lord, was his pretty princess who chose a perfect purple dress for the occasion. Close behind, dress in armor, from head to toe, marched forward a knight of the Knights Templar. He was followed by a trio of drummers dressed in brown rags. Their chorus of pounding and thumping entangled with the sound of a trio of flute players; one maroon, one blue, and one in an orange outfit. Strolling behind them was a small group of ladies from the minor houses dressed in a rainbow of colors from teal to turquoise. Fluttering behind the noble women were the flags and banners of the various noble houses of the land. Clenched tight by the very knights and bannermen who served under them. As the lords and common folk alike began to steer toward the church the church’s own banners, held by two inquisitors, stride onward with a bishop leading the trio. Toward the end a group of moors appear as well to add their colors and sigils to the parade. At the very end of the parade is a group of prostitutes carrying a bearded man dress as a lady, just for some laughs.
During our stay in Burgos, we were fortunate enough to see the annual Folk Festival held there. They have been hosting this festival since the year 2000. Many different groups from all over Spain come to dance and play music. There are also groups from all over the world. For instance, there were groups from America, Cuba, Serbia, New Zealand, and Indonesia. The setting for this festival is a concert, where the patrons sit down in the square and watch the groups dance and play traditional music from their individual country, or area of Spain. It is held in the historic center of the city of Burgos. It was amazing and interesting because each country had shown us a peak into their musical history.
I really enjoyed every country’s performances but the one that stuck out the most was the United States one, mainly because the first performance by our country was line dancing. Not that I do not think line dancing is cool and traditional but I live in America and my idea of a traditional dance did not include that in it. I am not completely sure what my idea of a traditional American dance would be but that was not at the top of the list. Although, the Utah team did an excellent job and I for one am very proud of them and the fact that they were lucky enough to conduct a performance in Burgos! I hope that one day I am able to go back to Burgos, Spain and watch the Castillo Folk Festival again because it was quite intriguing.