Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

La Tamborada Nacional

I was a bit of a celebrity in Jumilla last night. Lots of people shouted at me just before they grabbed their friends around the shoulder, smiled broadly and stared in my direction. They wanted me to take their photo. Nowadays photos are everywhere. Every event is a forest of mobile phone cameras. So why the excitement? I can only put the interest down to the stick, the mono-pod, that was attached to the bottom of my camera. They presumably thought I was press or at least a proper photographer.

It didn't help though. Despite having racked the speed on the camera up to ISO 2000 and having the stick to help steady the camera every single one of the photos I took was blurred. Mind you I've still loaded lots of them up to various photo sharing websites because they're sort of friendly.

The information about the tamborada was a bit vague. No, it was a lot vague. A tamborada is a drum event; people walk around beating drums. The name is presumably based on the Spanish word for one sort of drum, un tambor. I've been to one other tamborada, in Hellin in Albacete province. There it's a pretty easy story. During Holy Week the church processions included official drummers. Over the years the drummers escaped the confines of the formal processions and simply wandered around beating drums at Easter time. Nowadays the mayhem of drummers wandering the streets in packs is part of Hellin's culture. They drum for hours on end. In Tobarra, in Albacete again, they drum for 104 hours without stopping from the Wednesday afternoon of Holy Week through to midnight on Easter Sunday. I've heard of tamboradas in Cuenca, in Andorra in Teruel, in San Sebastian. There are tamboradas all over Spain. Most of the tamboradas are associated with Holy Week

So before we went I vaguely assumed that I had simply missed this particular event in Jumilla in previous years. Jumilla is in Murcia but only 35 km from home. I supposed that the tamborada was in some way associated with religion and with Easter. After all the drum association in Jumilla is called Asociación de Tambores Santísimo Cristo de la Sangre, or something like the Holy Blood of Christ Drum Association. It turns out though that this particular drum group was only formed in 2005 and is named for one of the statues in a local monastery. It's strange actually. Spain has a long Catholic tradition but I wouldn't say that it's a particularly religious country nowadays. The Catholic Church has a long history of siding with the oppressor rather than the oppressed (particularly in the last century) yet socialist mayors and leftist politicians in general seem quite content to pop out and kiss the feet of the Virgin or carry the patron saint of the town on their shoulders. Left leaning administrations happily pay out thousands of euros for fiestas which usually have a religious theme at their core. I suppose it's something similar to the way that people who haven't been to church for years are determined to have some sort of cleric officiate their wedding and why I don't kick up too much of a fuss if someone invites me to a Christian funeral or baptism.

Anyway, after going back and forth on a whole range of websites it now seems that the event we were at in Jumilla last night was simply a coming together of the drum associations from all over Spain. It has taken place in other towns with a tradition of drumming in past years. And, despite lots of the drummers having Christian insignia on their tunics and variations on penitent type robes this was nothing more than a celebration of drumming.

Excellent fun. The drum was the main protagonist but, being Jumilla, there was a wine event tacked on. We were getting a glass of wine from the Casa de la Ermita stand and Maggie mentioned her Secret Wine Spain venture and the chap suddenly clicked. He knew her site and he knew Maggie's name. His girlfriend had a drum though. People everywhere were beating drums. Lots were in organised groups, representatives of their towns or their association but there were several families too or just bunches of pals. We left long before we could take the offer of the bargain breakfast at one of the food stalls but my ears are still ringing nonetheless.

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