When will we relight the Fallas? #tornarem
There were no marching bands, no streets filled with elegantly dressed falleras, no ofrenda to dedicate flowers to the city’s patron saint, La Virgen de los Desamparados, no hordes of tourists and most noticeably no magnificent monuments on every other street corner waiting to be burnt on the night of 19 March.
For the second year running there were no Fallas. And with the amount of rain that fell over the days of the festival, some might say that the Virgen herself was crying. Some dedicated falleros dressed up, took flowers to their local church, enjoyed online activities with their falla friends, but there were no large gatherings, no marquees, no parties, no fiesta. Even the proposed fireworks display across the city was cancelled in the end, due to fears of people gathering in large crowds.
In the festival’s long history, this is only the seventh time this has occurred. Previous cancellations were in 1896 because of Spain’s involvement in the Cuban War of Independence, 1886 when the Falleros themselves refused to pay a tax for the privilege of putting up their monuments and as a result there was no fiesta. In 1937, 1938 and 1939 there were no celebrations because of the Spanish Civil War – and, of course, it was also cancelled in 2020.
If anyone has any doubt about the importance of Las Fallas festival, apart from the passion and emotion it excites among most Valencians, it brings in hundreds of millions of euros each year to the local economy. When the fiesta was cancelled last year one estimate put the cost at more than €750 million.
In 2019 the Fallas brought nearly a million visitors to the city each day, and in 2016 UNESCO put the fiesta on its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Around €7 million alone is spent on the 800 or so monuments which go up in flames on San José.
Around Valencia during the cancelled Fallas, yellow painted signs could be seen on the ground, with the words: ‘Ací crema el cor d’una falla’ with the hashtag #tournarem – ‘Here burns the heart of a Falla. We’ll be back’.
Valencian president Ximo Puig assured Valencians this week about the future of Las Fallas, saying: ‘Next year there will be Fallas for sure, because up until now we have been fighting the pandemic on the defensive and now, with the vaccine, we are on the attack.’
Although others have warned that the fiesta might never be celebrated as it was before. Director of the Museo Fallero and professor of sociology and social anthropology, Gil Manuel Hernández, believes some changes will be necessary in the world of Las Fallas, once the pandemic is over. Speaking on Radio Ser, he said: ‘This is a moment to recuperate the essence [of this fiesta] and prepare for future crises, be they health or other, because this pandemic has been the first but will not be the last.’
Just as the mass vaccination of teachers and school staff got underway on Monday afternoon with the AstraZeneca jab, concern was raised over its possible link to blood clots and vaccinations were halted by Spain’s Health Ministry, with immediate effect. Teachers who had been called to be vaccinated were sent home while others who had just received the jab worried over the possible side effects. The programme, which was stopped just three hours after it began, aimed to vaccinate some 116,000 school staff.
According to Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias, vaccinations with AstraZeneca will now begin again from Wednesday 24 March, although beforehand there will be a thorough analysis of who is to receive the vaccine, which until now had been offered only to those under 55, and whether there will be any change in protocol, which will be announced next week following the interterritorial health department meeting on Monday. One thing is certain, though, the mass vaccination of teachers is now likely to be postponed until the Easter break to avoid interrupting classes.
The vaccination programme with Moderna and Pfizer has, however, continued uninterrupted.
Valencian president Ximo Puig said that the AstraZeneca cancellation had been felt like a ‘jug of cold water’ after the ‘huge effort’ that the health and education ministries had made to vaccinate more than 100,000 teachers. In an interview with RNE, he said: ‘As soon as we can vaccinate, we will vaccinate.’ Although he said more vaccines were needed.
He showed his support for the World Health Organization (WHO), which is of the opinion that ‘it’s much better to vaccinate, although there may be slight problems, than not to vaccinate’. He said that the objective is still for mass vaccination in April with all the different vaccines available: Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Janssen and also Sputnik V if approved by Europe.
Puig said: ‘The best investment at the moment is, without doubt, through vaccination. When we talk about the cost of a vaccine we mustn’t only think in the cost of a life from the ethical point of view, but also from the economic perspective of what a day in the ICU costs.’
Puig went on to say that, while the Valencia region once again has the lowest Covid-19 incidence in Spain, we are not out of the woods yet, and that if this good situation continues, restrictions can be eased from 12 April, taking care ‘to reach the summer in the best conditions that will allow us to have the most normal summer possible’. ALSO READ: Details of curfews & restrictions for all regions of Spain during ‘State of Alarm’
He said the lifting of the regional border closure would depend on two things: the epidemiological situation in the region after the Easter holidays and the situation nationally when the state of alarm ends on 9 May. ‘We have to tread carefully,’ he added.
Referring to international tourism, which is such an important aspect of the region’s economy, he said that there have been conversations with the tourism ministry but added that his government’s position was ‘rather than accelerating the lifting of restrictions, to guarantee stability and reach summer well’. He also said there had been ‘substantial’ progress in the health passport for Schengen Area countries. ALSO READ: EU plans ‘digital green certificates’ for ‘safe’ travel
Also read: Covid-19 Vaccinations in Spain
Coronavirus situation improving
Coronavirus cases continue to decline in the Valencia region, with 1,039 new infections reported this week, compared to 1,776 last week. There have been 1,621 all-clears, compared to 3,304 last week and there have been 64 deaths compared to 137 last week. There have been 33 new outbreaks of Covid-19, whereas last week there were 43, but still the majority come from socialising, 24.
As of Thursday (the last full report) there were 500 people being treated for Covid-19 in the region’s hospitals, compared to 587 last week, with 145 in the ICUs, compared to 170 last week.
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