by Kris Sinclair Christian
Photos: Kris, except Goya’s Pradera painting from the Wikimedia Commons
Every Spanish region has its special day and on the 15th of May the Madrileños proudly head to the Pradera de San Isidro (Meadow of San Isidro) garbed in colorful costumes as if they have just stepped out of Francisco de Goya’s La Pradera de San Isidro, a famous canvas depicting the day of the pilgrimage to the hermitage of San Isidro painted in 1788.
On the foreground of that painting you could see folk dressed in their finery, reclining leisurely on the gentle slopes and enjoying a picnic (of wine, definitely, and the delicatessen of those days, presumably, including tapas ), while farther on the banks of the Manzanares River folk are on the move, strolling, playing games, riding on their carriages.
The celebration hasn’t changed all that much through all these hundreds of years, before and after the painting, though present circumstances have injected a new ingredient into it: humor not unmixed with irony.
Born in what was then the far outskirts of Madrid in 1082, farmer and miracle worker, San Isidro went on to become the patron saint of the capital. A devout believer he always laid down his farm tools to attend mass when the church bells tolled. His co-laborers complained that he was neglecting his work so one day, while he was in church, the angels came and plowed the field for him.
San Isidro’s wife also gained sainthood, Santa Maria de la Cabeza.
One way of licking – or, at least, minimizing – the effects of the infernal economic crisis is to deal with it with humor. Lately many Madrileños have taken to watching top TV presenters injecting a high dosage of humor poking fun at politicians.
At the San Isidro fiesta, chulapos and chulapas, Madrileños decked out in the customary flamenco outfit, divested themselves of the cocky swagger and affectation that characterize the chulapos/pas and focused instead on attacking the government humorously by referring to the scandals and cutbacks in traditional songs whose lyrics they have cleverly changed: Por la calle de Alcala gritan muerte al capital / Llega el pico del petroleo, muere el bosque tropical . . .
Roughly translated the lines go this way: Down by Alcala Street they shout death to the capital / The pickax of oil exploration appears, the tropical wood dies . . .
These humorous lyrics sent the crowd laughing uproariously and, at least during the fiesta of their patron saint, their worries were forgotten. It’s undoubtedly the best way to celebrate San Isidro’s feast day in these difficult times.
How could you reach the Pradera? The easiest is to take Metro Line 5 and get off the Marques de Vadillo station. From there go up Paseo de 15 de Mayo. It’s that easy.
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