21 abr. 2012

Puentes, acueductos and fiestas in Madrid

2 de mayo, Goya - Prado, National Museum
Living in Madrid, keeping up with all the Spanish public holidays can be a challenging task, especially due to the ad hoc manner in which they can fall on any given day of the week. As such, this year the national holiday Labour Day (May 1st) in Spain falls on a Tuesday, allowing Spaniards the opportunity for a “puente”. It is nicknamed as such as it will fall on a Tuesday, allowing one to book the Monday off work (or call in sick as many do), forming a bridge "puente" between the weekend and the bank holiday. 

Unlike the majority of Europe, where bank holidays are routinely assigned to Mondays, the tradition of taking puentes is ingrained into Spanish culture, and woe betide he who tries to deny a Spaniard of this privilege. Since the two bank holidays last December which fell on the Tuesday and Thursday of the same week, a new term “Aqueducto” seems to have been coined (no explanation needed – I hope) and rest assured that we will keep you posted with any new holiday related terminology based on transportation structures.


Depending on where you are in Spain, you will find you have different days off – there are national holidays and regional holidays, the latter – obviously - only being relevant in their respective regions or communities. This year Labour Day in Spain is on a Tuesday, and habitants of Madrid will also benefit from the regional “Dos de Mayo”, Comunidad de Madrid Day, holiday on the Wednesday. So, why do we have the luxury of a second weekend, slap-bang in the middle of a week?

Los fusilamientos del 3 de mayo, Goya.
After Napoléon took charge of France in 1804, and declared war on pretty much the whole world, he invaded Spain in 1806, and managed to capture and occupy Madrid by March that year. With tensions rising and resentment towards the French at record highs, it was only a matter of time until the indignant Madrileños kicked off. Upon hearing news that yet more members of Spain’s royal family were meant to be removed from the Royal Palace and shipped off to France, the proud citizens of Madrid were tipped over the edge. On May 2nd a Spanish mob invaded the palace grounds, provoking French troops. What ensued was an eruption of fierce street fighting which spread like wildfire across most of Madrid. A painting of the events by Francisco de Goya, Dos de Mayo, hangs in the Prado Museum today. Another painting by Goya, aptly named Tres de Mayo (Prado Museum, Madrid) depicts the backlash which followed the next day – the execution of many captured rebels. 

News of the revolt sent shockwaves around Spain and rebellions were staged all across the country, helping the eventual repulsion of the French from Iberia. 

It was decided that May 2nd be a public holiday for Madrid, and in place of the barracks of Monteleón, there is a now square called the Plaza Dos de mayo. Also, you have probably been in the district of Malasaña in central Madrid, which was named after a teenage heroine, Manuela Malasaña who died in the mass executions on May 3rd. Today you can find several memorials to the heroic Madrileños of the revolt around Madrid such as the Monumento a los Caidos por España, in the Plaza de la Lealtad. 

Processions, to celebrate May 2th, Madrid.
The modern day celebrations go on for more or less 10 days around May 2nd, featuring acts like live music, plays, performing arts and comedy. On the day itself there is usually a ceremony starting at midday at the Monumento del Bicentenario in Sol, featuring a procession by the regional police, national police and other community groups and associations of Madrid, and things tend to get a bit more exciting in Malasaña, where the celebrations take on the form of fiestas. For a full calendar of the public and regional holidays in Spain, click here.


Click here for the 2012 programme!