Spain may be famous for a handful of stereotypes — among them: football, sun and sangría. Moving one step higher on the ladder of knowledge, those of us who studied Spanish in high school got a cursory rundown of the major local and national holidays…Semana Santa, La Feria de Abril, Las Fallas, etc. However, before moving to Madrid, I had never heard of San Isidro, a mid-May festival that celebrates the city’s patron saint, Isidore.
For the holiday, madrileños dress up in traditional local costumes, eat, dance, and listen to music. Some go to drink from the well where, according to legend, San Isidro miraculously saved his son’s life after he fell in by making the water level rise. Others watch the festival’s special bullfights, though this year they were canceled due to three consecutive injuries to the bullfighters. Regardless of what one chooses off of San Isidro’s long menu of ways to celebrate, a good time is usually had by all.
I honored San Isidro 2014 in full chulapa dress, at the traditional Pradera de San Isidro (a grassy area where people gather on this holiday), enjoying the sun, a picnic, some wine, and topping it all off with rosquillas, round pastries covered in merengue (“las de Santa Clara”), almonds (“las francesas”), icing (“las listas”— the smart ones, because wanting extra sugar on top is a smart thing) or plain (“las tontas” — the dumb ones, because why would you pass up sugar when it’s offered to you?).