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Madrid’s Festival of San Isidro in May
The festival of San Isidro, Saint Isidore, one of Madrid's patron saints, takes place during the month of May. The San Isidro festival is the most important bullfighting festival in the world, but offers other celebrations as well that include fairs, concerts, dances and the romeria, a kind of pilgrimage, to the ermita de San Isidro. The ermita de San Isidro is an early eighteenth-century chapel, where, out of tradition or belief, the faithful partake of the miraculous water looking for health or purification. San Isidro offers a great chance to see Madrid during one of its main festivals, as locals take to the streets with communal singsongs, street vendors selling the traditional wafers, or barquillos known as pan de angel (angel's bread), late night eating of churros dipped in chocolate, and music playing everywhere.

The Madrileños have taken the somewhat saintly story of San Isidro and turned it into giant fiesta. Legend has it that the saint was an impoverished farm worker who, along with his wife Santa Maria de la Cabeza, became famous for giving food to the poor. On another occasion during a drought he broke the earth with a scythe which brought forth a spring of water which gave sufficient water to supply all of Madrid. The pious couple, who first made their appearance in the Middle Ages, also became associated with various miraculous works which led to their joint beatification.

These days San Isidro stands for fun, with the official festival - which dates from 1947 -running from about May 8-15, but with events often spilling over for much longer.

San Isidro is also closely linked to bullfights with numerous corridas taking place as part of the celebrations - securing tickets for Las Ventas arena, however, is no easy task. Even if you never set foot in the capital's main bull ring, Las Ventas, it's difficult to avoid seeing a fight as they are screened on TV throughout the season and tend to be the television viewing choice in many bars.


If you're not a bullfight fan, the heart of the festival is music which is performed in locations throughout the city. The best places for live acts are Las Vistillas, the park next to the Palacio Real, and Plaza Mayor where there's a concert of some sort every night. Rock concerts are held at the bigger venue of the Casa de Campo, the vast open parkland to the west of the city. Jazz lovers go to performances at the Colegio San Juan Evangelista, while children are also treated to an extensive program of events.

Many Madrid natives will dress up in one of their traditional folk costumes. There are two kinds of costume: the majos and majas, and the chulos and chulapas. The former is the popular dress as recorded in Goya’s works, the men looking rather bandolero-like, the women sporting high combs and lace shawls. Chulos and chulapas are even more engrained in the spirit of Madrid. This costume is rather like that of London's pearly kings and queens and probably dates from around the same time - white neckerchiefs, black-and-white check jackets, waistcoats and caps for the men and clinging, frilly dresses and headscarves for the women. Chulos and chulapas dance to the chotis, a slow, polka-like air, preferably heard on a barrel piano. The lady dances in courtly fashion around the man, who rotates arrogantly on the spot, only shuffling his feet to face his partner. It is very theatrical and great fun to watch.

A full program detailing the festivities is available from Spanish tourist board offices in the city four or five days before the festival begins. Escuela Internacional helps students studying Spanish at the Alcalá de Henares Center during these dates to select interesting concerts and events and orient them to the locations of the various festivities. But if you’re in Madrid, the festivities are everywhere and hard to miss. Enjoy May in Madrid!


Escuela Internacional Central Registration Office
C/ Talamanca, 10, 28807 Alcala de Henares (Madrid), España
Teléfono: +34 91 883 12 64, Fax: +34 91 883 13 01
e-mail: info@escuelai.com

Cities in Spain
Salamanca - a walk
Shopping Salamanca
Nightlife - Malaga
Places to go - Alcalá
Excursion - Segovia
Excursion - Siguenza
Trip to Matavenero
Celebrations / Events
Semana Cervantina
Carnival in Spain
April Fair-Sevilla
San Isidro in Madrid
Fiesta del Pilar
Alcalá Film Festival
Christmas in Spain
Spanish Christmas carols
Picasso Museum
Flamenco in Malaga
Cervantes in Alcalá