For two days during the Las Fallas festival, the city of Valencia, Spain was abundant with parades of falleras and falleros in traditional costumes accompanied by musicians and bands. Over 100,000 people from Valencia and surrounding regions brought offerings of flowers to the centre of Old Town Valencia to pay homage to La Virgen de los Desamparados (Our Lady of the Forsaken), the Kingdom of Valencia’s patron saint.
During the week leading up to the event, Valencians constructed a huge wooden monument of the La Virgen in the Plaza de la Virgen. On March 17th and 18th, this wooden framework was soon filled in with thousands of bouquets of carnations during La Ofrenda de Flores. I became captivated with this amazing tradition: one by one, each of the hundreds of falla communities, dressed up in their best and most colorful traditional costumes, passed by the Virgin bringing their flower offerings. The flowers were gathered up and placed into the framework “cloak” by teams of volunteers. These processions lasted for two days, 9 hours each day from 4:00 pm to 1:00 am. The parades were quite joyful as the beautifully costumed groups danced and sang to folk music as they passed by the crowds who responded with shouts of “guapa”! These processions were also quite emotional — I noticed many women wiping away tears upon reaching La Virgen and presenting their flowers.
La Ofrenda de Flores was a very inclusive tradition, with people of all ages participating — from babies, to the elderly, to the mobility challenged. It was an amazing event to witness and to photograph. My eyes fill with tears just thinking about how memorable it was to watch.