by Jack Wright
Madrid’s Patron Saint, San Isidro el Labrador (St. Isidore the Laborer), is a prodigious miracle-worker. More than a hundred miracles are attributed to him! Born in the Spanish capital c. 1082 — where he died in 1172 — he is known for his uncanny facility for finding water. Hence the tradition to this day of chulapos and chulapas drinking from the spring beside the Ermita de San Isidro in his memory. In normal times, the spring (now a fountain) is open to the public the week before and after his feast day.
Last year, the celebration of San Isidro’s feast day, 15 May, was canceled as expected, what with the pandemic raging rampant across Spain. This year, thankfully, with the COVID-19 vaccines being administered with surprising agility (kudos to the central and local governments!), Madrid could afford to celebrate. Somehow. Following the strictest of health protocols, the festivities have been what the Madrileños longed for. And what they always will. Besides being a definitive homage to their very own saint, the festivities relieve the unremitting tedium of the confinement that is now in its second year. (It seems more like a lifetime!)
The government-sponsored San Isidro events in 2021 are mostly free outdoor concerts in the three most popular cultural venues in the city: the Conde Duque, the Matadero, and Entrevias Forest Park Auditorium. Famed Spanish actor and director Santiago Segura rang in the celebrations at the Plaza de la Villa on Thursday afternoon, 13 May, which will last till Sunday, 16 May. So if you’re reading this news anytime before the end of the festivities, you could still, with luck, book a seat on www.sanisidromadrid.com. This is also the site that gives you the full San Isidro programming as organized by the City Council.
In addition to the above, there are also the IFEMA celebrations. The Instituto Ferial de Madrid, Madrid’s fairs and congresses institution par excellence, is a consortium with the combined City and Regional Madrid administrations as the majority stakeholder. The San Isidro at IFEMA is country-style, in recognition of the fact that the Patron Saint was the son of the meadow, the Pradera de San Isidro (the Meadow of St. Isidore). Address: Paseo de la Ermita del Santo, 74, 28019 Madrid.
Touted as a once-in-a-lifetime event, the San Isidro at IFEMA gives the Madrileños the chance to celebrate the 4th centenary of their Patron Saint in a safe and controlled environment. (Madrid is among the biggest European capitals which have the capability to organize these kinds of events.)
At IFEMA there are special areas for virtual immersion in the meadows of old; a photography exhibition to reminisce about the past editions of the San Isidro festivities; a gastronomy space, that includes food trucks, to delight palates with traditional goodies the most popular of which are the limonada (a drink of wine, lemon, sugar and chopped fruit) and rosquillas (doughnuts) in different shapes and sizes; a fairground with fun rides for the kids; and, last but not least, music, from the traditional chotis through the music of the Movida Madrilena up to the current hits at the hand of Madrid’s most popular DJs.
And because the San Isidro is after all a religious festivity, from 6 to 15 May traditional religious ceremonies are held in and around the Pradera de San Isidro: the blessing of the water from the Fountain of St. Isidore, a Quinario for the saint, a mass at the Colegiata de San Isidro, the Eucharist in the Chapel of the Cuadra de San Isidro, and the Romería pilgrimage-procession at the Pradera de San Isidro Park.
Another significant sign of the times: the Mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, led the floral offering at the so-called Pebetero de Cibeles, a monument of eternal flame honoring the victims of COVID-19, in the Plaza de Cibeles. With no fanfare, The Pebetero (cauldron) was inaugurated on San Isidro’s feast day in 2020.
It may not be San Isidro at full throttle but it is close enough. Next year, it’ll be all systems go. Just keep your fingers crossed!
An Ancient Fiesta with a New Twist
San Isidro Celebrations: Free Concerts on Plaza Mayor & Templo de Debod, 14 & 15 May 2017
Fiesta of San Isidro, the Most Castiza of the Fiestas in Madrid, Are Now On!
Fiestas de San Isidro, the Most Castiza You’ll Ever Get in the Spanish Capital!
A GUIDEPOST Reprint: “San Isidro Opens with Eloquence”, 21 May 1982
A GUIDEPOST Reprint: “La fiesta Brava: Winding Up San Isidro 2083”, 24 June 1982
Featured image courtesy IFEMA
Chulapos and chulapas painted on tiles/Riozujar, CC BY-SA4.0
Goya’s La Pradera/PD
Rosquillas/Tamorlan, CC BY3.0
Pebetero de Cibeles/Thomas Holbach, CC BY-SA4.0
Texts, prints, photos and other illustrative materials depicted in GUIDEPOST have been either contributed by the authors of each published work or, to the Magazine’s good-faith knowledge, are in the public domain or otherwise benefit from the allowances of Articles 9(2), 10, 10(bis), and applicable others of the Berne Convention for the Protection of literary and artistic works.