The summer holidays start and we all begin to think about the up and coming fiestas in our respective towns. In Ontinyent our “BIG ONE” is the famous Moors and Christians.
Our first year we were blown away by the colour, costumes, guns, music and general enthusiasm involved in this annual celebration. The second year we made it our aim to see parts of the fiesta we had missed the previous year. We trawled the town day and night following our timetable determined not to miss out. This year, our 3rd we ambled down to town at about 11.30pm to see the Moors entrance and ambled back home about 2 hours later. After three years I finally get why my neighbours pack their bags and leave town!!!
Having always lived in town it has taken a while to become accustomed to the typically loud Spanish noise level. But you’ve heard nothing till you’ve lived in this town during fiestas. On Saturday morning we finally crawled into bed at about 2.30am only to be woken again at 5.30am by the bin men, then again at 7.30 by the fireworks. At 8am the bands started their long parade around town playing their usual Moors and Christians music. My husband managed to roll over and go back to sleep, no such luck for me! I made myself as respectable as possible, dragged my chair out on to the balcony and tried my best to look as though I was thrilled to be able to witness part of a real Spanish fiesta.
 Really I was thinking “hurry up and clear off so I can go back to bed” and making definite plans to leave town next year for the week.
Now I am one of those English who, I think, has integrated into the lifestyle with gusto. I live in town, my son goes to a Spanish school, I have Spanish friends, I love going for tapas and all be it a few language hiccups, I can converse considerably well. But, I have had enough of the disruption caused by a fiesta which when worked out is actually participated in by the minority. Moors and Christians in Ontinyent, is as far as I can work out, an elitist activity. Oh yes more than 8,000 people take part but in a town this size it is actually a very small number. So the majority of us find ourselves woken at ridiculous hours of the morning, our rubbish collections altered and the only way of knowing is, apparently passed down through generations! Roads are closed without consideration as to whether you may need to get to your house with your 3 year old and weekly shopping, oh and the fact that your 8 months pregnant and generally quite aggressive! No, you have to take your chances and hope that you can either leave or get into town when you want to. Would it hurt for someone to just print something out or make it available on a website, what shops are shut when, which roads will be closed and when is it more likely that my car will be towed away because I failed to notice the matchbox size sign telling me no to park there…in Valenciano! The first 6 months I lived in this town the police had my car more often then I did, I did consider asking them to contribute to the insurance and tax for the year! I was just praying that I didn’t go into labour during the fiestas as I was convinced that I’d be sent home because all medical staff were at comparsa meals or out shooting guns!
So I am now planning Moors and Christians 2007 and I can tell you now it definitely involves suitcases and a long car journey! If you’ve never been to the fiesta yourselves then come along next year, you will enjoy every second because when you’ve had enough you’ll get back in your car and go home to your peaceful house elsewhere.
By Mel Collins

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