Festival of San Isidro Madrid

Every May the Spanish capital comes alive for the Festival of San Isidro, in honour of the city's patron saint. The festival has been officially running since 1947 and over 50 years of tradition make this a particularly special time of year for Madrilenõs. Traditionally the festival runs for nine days around May 8th ? 15th but the festival has a habit of starting a little earlier and finishing a little later than the official dates as locals try to extract as much fun as they possibly can from the event.So what's it all about? San Isidro himself was an impoverished peasant worker who gained notoriety for giving his food to the poor. He is also attributed with other miraculous acts throughout his life and has taken his place as the people's champion of Madrid.

The festival in his honour has turned into a two week long fest of music, fairs, dancing and, of course, bullfighting. San Isidro is the biggest bullfighting event in the world and anyone who is anyone in the world of bullfighting will be making an appearance at the most famous bullring of them all, "Las Ventas", at some point during the festival. There are numerous "Corridas" (bullfights) throughout the week and if you want to go then getting hold of tickets is extremely hard, and very pricey for what is seen as the premier event on the bullfighting calendar.

Another key event in paying homage to the city's patron saint is the "Romeria" ? a sort of pilgrimage to the Ermita de San Isidro (an 18th century chapel) where the holy waters are supposed to have healing properties.For the whole period the streets are buzzing with Madrilenõs in good festival cheer as street vendors jostle for your trade. Traditional fayre is on offer such as "barquillos", "pan de angel" and "churos" which are usually dipped in chocolate.For those not so keen on the bullfighting then there are plenty of other distractions all around the city to keep your interest. Music forms a major part of the San Isidro celebrations and concerts and gigs are performed nightly around the city such as Las Vistillas and the Plaza Mayor. Bigger rock concerts can also be seen at the "Casa de Campo", a large park in the western reaches of the city.

Many locals adopt traditional folk costumes for the festival ? the most famous being the "Chulos" and "Chulapas", for men and women respectively. The men dress in white neckerchiefs, black and white check jackets, waistcoats and caps, whilst the woman dress in ornate, frilly dresses with headscarves. They traditionally perform a dance called the "choti", a slow dance where the woman dance around the men in courtly fashion whilst the man shuffles around on the spot to remain facing his partner in theatrical fashion.For those with a taste for the local cuisine, the festival usually ends with a huge cook-off of Madrid's most famous dish: the "Cocido Madrileño" (a hearty bean and meat stew) as locals vie with each other to see who can make the best interpretation of the famous dish.

For visitors to Madrid San Isidro provides them with the opportunity to see this wonderful city in full swing ? it's the highlight of the year for locals and as such offers people a great chance to see the very best of Madrid and its warm, friendly people.

.Mike McDougall has five years experience working as a travel writer and marketeer. He is currenlty working to provide additional content for Babylon-idiomas, a Spanish language school with an excellent presence in Spain and Latin America.This work is covered by a creative commons licence.

By: Mike McDougall

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