Temperatures are soaring, there's Andalucia-coloured bunting everywhere and forests of flowers and plants being carted around town. It's just days before Lanjarón's biggest annual party, the San Juan Fiestas del Agua y del Jamón.(You can see the events program on this link). But before that week of mild frenzy begins, there's my favourite celebration of the year, Corpus Christi.
Spain has been celebrating 'the body of Christ' with lavish rituals and props since 1317. I read about elaborate parades and spectacles in cities like Toledo, Sevilla and Valencia: the religious processions there are accompanied by 'evil bogeymen, circus animals, dancing choirboys and devils'. And while there's no shortage of candidates for these roles in our town, they don't come out specially on this day.
No, in Lanjarón, we go big on plants. In barrio and placetas, the neighbours have clubbed together to bring or buy shiny rubber plants, doll-pink carnations and vermilion gladioli. The women arrange these around their particular 'imágen', a beautiful, often valuable small statue of la Virgen, El Crísto, a huge Bible bound in gold and scarlet, or an elaborate cross. The men rig up dazzling sodium lights in trees and on balconies. As darkness falls, women young and old take their seats outside on green or white plastic chairs and settle in for an all-night vigil, while excited kids run or cycle rings around them. At paseo hour, locals, young people back from college or jobs in Granada or beyond, and tourists stroll through town, detouring to admire each brightly lit courtyard and catch up with family and friends.
When we lived in Barrio Hondillo, Fred and I were invited to 'do' Corpus Christi each year with the other residents. Everyone brought out food and drink to cover the picnic tables. At midnight, grannies in serious aprons appeared with vats of boiling oil and started frying buñuelos (doughnuts) and serving thick chocolate. Our dog Macduff still has fond memories of being stuffed with doughnuts by his fans, before sprawling to sleep in the middle of the courtyard, finally waddling indoors with me at six in the morning. Perro bueno...
This year was as lovely as ever. The Hermita de San Roque across from La Caixa bank has flung open its doors for only the second time in the year. Flowers cover every surface. On the fine faded rug, a plump cherub with gilded wings lies on its back with its adorable plaster feet waving in the air. Near the kebab shop serving teenagers another kind of sustenance, the monstrance (usually an elaborate cross that holds consecrated bread) is made entirely from plastic packing chips.
At the Coviran grocery on the corner of Hondillo, they've pulled out all the stops as they do every year in a pious outpouring of red fabric. The banner covers the entire shopfront including the door, and is pinned with artificial white roses. On a table below, a miniature church is full of worshippers, startling in tartan bonnets. The priest looks a little préocupado, and no wonder; he is presiding over a wedding and a first communion for several angelic young people.
Our old neighbours greet us warmly and we stop to chat, but I wonder why it seems so quiet. It's definitely poca gente compared to the bustle of previous years. Locals who work or live away aren't travelling back so much this year, Irene tells me. I shouldn't be surprised, as times are tough here, according to informative online news site Typically Spanish.
Nevertheless, for me and Fred, Corpus Christi is a celebration about living here. For tonight, who cares about the loony revving his car in and out of the garage opposite eight times a day? Or the motos, the cement trucks, the endless construction? (Someone forgot to tell the builders here about El Crisis). The sometimes offhand service and the few people who stare straight through you, the invisible extranjero. I hoard up images of smiles and hugs, of collection plates and precious ornaments left unattended and undisturbed, of three generations slurping banana ice-cream at the Heladeria.
By the way, if you'd like some glimpses of our familiar Lanjarón faces, Fred, official photographer for Andalucid, just captured a few on a trip through town with me earlier this week. Meet our bank manager, catwalk-elegant Cristál who works at the corner shop, Jose-Luis, lordly in lime green, and his lovely wife Yolanda, proprietress of the flamenco gear shop. It was part of a worldwide photo challenge organised by Darren Prowse at Problogger. And such is his pulling power that these faces have had 1500 views since yesterday! More faces to come, and maybe stories too.
Another small-town summer has just begun in Lanjarón, and although I will be moaning about the heat until mid-September, I'm starting to see that there's a lot to love.
What do you love or hate about summer in the Alpujarras? Comment and let me know!