Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Fri March 25 2016

Opinion Home | Far-Sighted Field Notes

  • Rosalind Cummings-Yeates | March 25, 2016 11:00 PM ET

    The Numerous Ninots at Valencia’s Fallas Museum

    The Numerous Ninots at Valencia’s Fallas Museum

    Photo by Rosalind Cummings-Yeates

    Spain’s history of dramatic and colorful traditions, from flamenco to the running of the bulls, draw travelers from all over the globe but Valencia’s Las Fallas tradition is among its most creative. Every March, Valencia’s marble-topped streets come alive with fireworks, gunpowder, costumes and towering monuments called ninots, as part of the Las Fallas Festival. Las Fallas translates into “the fires” and that’s basically the theme of the celebration — setting the handcrafted artworks ablaze and filling the rest of the city with fireworks and smoke.

    Las Fallas celebrates spring and St. Joseph’s feast day, which falls on March 19, the date that marks the end of the fest.  I was excited to discover that you don’t have to be in Valencia during March  to get a glimpse of Las Fallas. The creation of ninots requires months and sometimes a whole year to form the life-like figures from papier mache, wood, plaster and cardboard.

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    Neighborhood teams build the statues (around 350 to be displayed all around the city), which are typically satirical or fanciful and are often several stories tall. Each ninot houses a hidden hole to be stuffed with fireworks so that on the night of March 19, it explodes with color, fire and sound.

    Considering all that hard work, it’s funny that the monuments wind up in ash heaps on the streets except for the special ones that are saved by popular vote. These ninot indultat (the pardoned figure) are displayed in the Fallas Museum, which showcases the saved monuments from over 80 years of Fallas Festivals.

    Walking into the museum, your vision is immediately filled with the hundreds of colors and shapes of the popular ninots. The figures are lined up in row after row of imaginative creations and I found it hard to focus on just one because out of the corner of my eye, there was always another figure that was even more interesting.

    Besides the artistry, what really fascinated me were the subjects of the monuments. I spotted several Jessica Rabbit figures, a handful of mermaids an Elvis statue and even Mick Jagger!  That an entire Valencian committee considered Mick Jagger significant enough to work on his image, complete with tight, bulging pants, for almost a year, is a curious thing.  The hundreds of statues offer brief insight into the Valencian psyche, since they were all saved by popular vote.

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    Judging from what I saw, I’d say that Valencians enjoy a quirky sense of humor.

    The museum also displays posters, a section on the history of the festival and how ninots are created as well as a short video explaining the details of the Fallas traditions. There’s even a model of the mascleta, the fireworks and gunpowder that are set off every day during Las Fallas. If you can’t see the actual Fallas Festival, a visit to the Fallas Museum is the next best thing.

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Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Far-Sighted Field Notes

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Rosalind Cummings-Yeates is a journalist, author and blogger who specializes in travel and culture topics. She loves guiding readers through the richness of various cultures and discovering the essence of a destination. Her travel and culture blog, Farsighted Fly Girl, offers travel insights through the music, food, art and history of various countries and cultures. Join her on the journey at www.Rosalindcummingsyeates.
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