SLAUGHTERS AND SAN ANTON'S ANIMALS
Andy Ormiston / 2010-01-08 13:26:53
About twenty years ago in Torrevieja Manolo had a high-class French cuisine restaurant opposite the Fontana Hotel. For a couple of years the small street was cut off to traffic and he held a street party with butchers cutting up a pig, barbecuing some parts and making sausages, chorizos, black puddings etc. out of other parts of the animals.
This used to be very common in remote parts of Spain and still goes on as often small communities are cut off from the rest of the world and in order to survive slaughter a pig, sheep or other animal and use every part of the animal to make food that keeps them going until snows melt and springtime arrives.
In Murcia region there is a small mountain village named Matanza which is the Spanish word for slaughter. A similar fiesta is held in Torrelamata this month, although the animals are not slaughtered in the street but in the local slaughterhouse, but everyone can enjoy drinking the local wine and eating chops or whatever they fancy.
January 17th is connected with this event, as it is the fiesta of San Anton Abad, who is the Spanish patron saint of animals. In his images a pig trots faithfully after him as in the legend he saved it from certain death and often accompanies him. Most towns will hold a procession and blessing of pets, including in the main church of la Inmaculada in Torrevieja in the early evening with a short parade from the Vista Alegre paseo. In Alicante there is an annual market with a raffle for a pig to help affray the expenses, a custom quite common.
In some mountain towns in the Valencian region this is an important communal festival that includes building a huge bonfire and a wooden house where someone dressed as the saint is persecuted and taunted by others, dressed as demons or loose women trying to tempt Saint Anton into sins of the flesh.
On some occasions, with smaller bonfires, people will jump over the fire, sometimes on horseback, in a purifying ritual. This is a community fiesta with survival and purifying as basic parts of the ritual and leads on into the period of carnival.
However, for most of us it is an opportunity to reflect on the environment and how we as humans treat other animals. Spain now has several animal protection associations and particularly in Cataluña are vociferous in trying to prevent bullfighting taking place.
But in some towns other animals are used in cruel ways, such as horseracing when riders pluck a live hen from a rope so that it stretches the bird’s neck and the winner is the horseman who holds the bird in his hands, as it may take several attempts to pluck the bird from the rope.
In other fiestas there is no cruelty, especially in events like the recent Madrid Cabalgata of the kings when squadrons of horsemen paraded in the annual procession in tight formation and were well appreciated by the crowd, or in Torrevieja’s May Fair where horses play an important part in the dressage and other competitions.
But for those with pets 17th January is a special day for a blessing of your mascot and yourself.
Tags: Andy Ormiston, Spain, Slaughter, Food