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Sevilla’s April Fair: curiosities and anecdotes

One of the most eye-catching and well known feasts, not only in Andalucía, but in the whole of Spain has started. Ladies and gentlemen: Sevilla’s April Fair is on!

The most folkloric and festive Andalucía has its full power representation on these days: horse carriages, sensual faralaes’ dresses (that is, flamenco costumes), Andalusian wines, sevillana dances… with all these attractions it would be normal that you felt the need of running to see what it is all about. So we are going to tell you a few important facts about this fair.

Seville Fair's poster

It all started in 1846, when the ranchers Narciso Bonaplata and José María de Ybarra presented the town council a request to organize a cattle fair. In March 1847 the official permit was receives, signed by Queen Isabel II herself. It took less than a month for Bonaplata and Ybarra to organize the fair. By the way, a “funny” detail: none of the two founders was Andalusian; Bonaplata was Catalan and Ybarra was born in the Basque Country.

But, when did it stop being a commercial fair to transform into a fully festive event? The moment is unclear, but it’s on record that in 1850 the fair was so popular that the area meant for cattle sale had to be separated from the one oriented towards having fun.

Oriented towards this purpose are the marquees installed in the Fair’s compound (some of them are public, while others are private). It is told that the first marquee was set up in 1849, but its function was to shelter the public order’s representatives. We don’t think that what happened was that the city’s bailiffs started dancing sevillanas and drinking manzanilla (a typical dry wine) because they were bored. It is far more plausible that the visitors asked for a similar tent to be able to rest and cool off while they sounded out the cattle buyers.

If there is one thing that catches our attention in the April’s Fair is the women’s dresses: the so called “faralaes dress”. It is both baroque and simple and, though it seems somewhat showy, the women wearing it praise its comfort. This is due to the fact that is actually is a full version of the labor gowns that were used by the farmer’s wives.

This dress is ideal for dancing sevillanas: this dance has its origin in “Castilian segudillas”, taken to the south by the peasants accompanying the Christian troops during the Reconquest, in the Middle Ages. These compositions took elements from the music played by Spanish Moors, and evolved until they turned into what we know today. Surprisingly enough, they weren’t acknowledged as a genre until 1847, the same year that Bonaplata and Ybarra received the permit to organize their cattle fair.

Alumbrao

Alumbrao

It seems that it all goes back to the second half of the XIX century, but such a typical element as the farolillos (lanterns) dates back to 1877. Even more recent is the custom of the “alumbrao” (electric lighting), which consists in lighting up a spectacular temporal monument that welcomes visitors: it is from 1921, when the monumental gate of the San Sebastian prairie had to be pulled down. From then on, each year is set up a different façade, which holds thousands of light bulbs, and that gives a special light to the fair.

Of course, there are many other interesting facts. But we refuse to say more: the best you can do is going to Sevilla on these special dates, and ask around while you drink a fino or a rebujito (you know, a mix of manzanilla wine or sherry, mint and soda).

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