Elegant Andalucian horses, music, and swirling polka dot dresses fill the dusty streets of Jerez. Our guest writer, Christine Medina, and expert in Southern Spain, describes TheFeria del Caballo, The Horse Fair, which is wrapped with the sultry smell of orange blossoms. Its roots date to 1284. The Spanish know how to keep celebration alive.
By Christine Medina
The orange blossoms drench the air with their perfume, the sherry starts flowing and the dramatic lights start going up . Yes, it’s that time of the year again in Spain–it’s feria (fair) season!
Though the famed Feria de Abril in Sevilla may steal the spotlight, there’s an equally appealing feria about an hour away in Jerez de la Frontera: Spain’s sherry capital. It’s called Feria del Caballo and features regal Andalusian horses, and all of the typical feria flair you’ll find in Sevilla. The difference in Jerez is that the casetas (tents that feature a bar/dance floor) here are open to the public, which in my opinion, makes for a better feria experience.
Last May, I headed to Jerez on a scorching afternoon to experience my first feria ever. As I entered, I was greeted by stands of flashy trinkets and candies, with carnival workers hawking their goods at passers-by. Different amusement-park rides backed up to hamburger and kebab stands and I thought to myself: “hmm, this doesn’t seem so different than the carnivals back in the States.”
But then I entered through the extravagant feria gates and my jaw dropped. I felt like I had been transported to a Spain of years past: dapper men dressed in the traditional short-jacketed suits atop gorgeous Andalusian horses.
Women dancing sevillanas (a style of flamenco dancing) in their richly colorful flamenco dresses. And the children running around looking like little versions of the men and women. It was truly a feast for the eyes as I had never seen anything like it before.
Soon, I was swept into a series of casetas, rebujitos (a typical feria drink of sherry and 7-Up) placed in my hand, and taught the basic moves of sevillanas: “Take your hand like you’re delicately picking an apple. Now, lightly toss that apple aside.” encouraged my impromptu instructor. Inside the casetas are usually a bar and a dance floor, but sometimes a dining area as well. As rebujito sloshed around in my cup, I was spun around and around soaking up this small moment of sheer joy. Luckily, I wasn’t wearing a traditional flamenco dress, as it would have had its fair share of rebujito on it!
As the drinking and dancing continued, I couldn’t help but appreciate how the feria celebrates the rich Andalusian culture without attempting to modernize any part of it (this particular feria has a history of ancient origins dating to 1284!). This definitely wasn’t an experience I could have back home, which made it all the more special.
The Feria del Caballo is from May 7-13th, 2012 and the entrance to the fairgrounds (located inside Hontario Gonzalez Park) and casetas are free of charge and open to the public. If you plan to book a hotel, do so ahead of time. !
Related Spain Scoop: We have The Scoop on festivals in Southern Spain.
Christine Medina, originally from Seattle, Washington, has been an expat in Andalucia for two years. She shares her travel advice, anedotes and photographs on http://www.christineinspain.com/