Las Cruces de Mayo
So May is upon us. The month of the year that Cordoba is famed for. And it kicked off with torrential rain and thunderstorms. But that didn’t stop the city from transforming itself into an oasis of flowers for Cruces.
Las Cruces de Mayo, or Crosses, is a popular festival in Cordoba that welcomes in the month of May. During Crosses, all the most popular streets and plazas in the city are adorned with flowers and pot plants; the focal point of each being a tall cross, usually about 3 metres high, that stands completely decorated in beautifully cultivated, very colourful flowers. Each cross is decorated according to local tradition, in colours and varieties that reflect the characteristics of the particular zone of the city in which it stands.
But there’s something so inescapably Spanish about this festival. It’s an amalgamation of three of the things the Andalucians, in particular, do best: eat, drink and…worship. That is, despite the fact that the purpose of each cross is to raise funds for the church communities’ upcoming year of activities – some of the most Holy and most devoutly Catholic you could possibly witness (so that’s how they pull off Semana Santa, you say) – they do so by hosting a big old botellón. Tell me there’s not something about the combination of faith and booze that would scream contradiction anywhere else in the world other than here?
Each cross is accompanied by a bar that serves the typical food and drink of the region. Pinchitos (flavoured meat kebabs), flammenquin (crispy, deep-fried ham and cheese encased in pork), salmorejo and tortilla (Spanish egg and potato omelette) are the favourites para tapear (to snack on). And the local drink fino, which is the driest and palest of the traditional varieties of sherry cannot be avoided. Nor should it.
It is also the occasion that marks the introduction of the infamous summertime cocktail, the rebujito – a mix of fino or manzanilla sherry, lemonade and a lot of ice. This is the drink of Feria and after a long day (or night) in the heat, this refreshing beverage has the remarkable power to go to your head more than just a little.
At each cross, you will also find there is usually a loudspeaker system playing (occasionally live) music that is traditional to the region – such as the beautiful sevillanas (a type of Flamenco) and a variety of rumba.
It’s inevitable that the combination of food, alcohol, music, dance and religious aesthetic makes for a festival that is very unique, and one that despite my efforts to explain, cannot be properly appreciated unless experienced. Unforgettable.