Nearly 760 giant sculptures went up in flames on Sunday night when the Spanish city of Valencia ended its famous Fallas celebration. Around 3,000 police officers and over 400 firefighters patrolled the streets of the Mediterranean city to ensure safety during a time-honored celebration that has made it into UNESCO’s list of World Intangible Heritage of Humanity last November.
This, and the fine weekend weather, attracted thousands of tourists to watch a ritual that is meant to welcome the spring. Other towns and villages across the region held Fallas of their own.
Regional premier Ximo Puig declared the 2017 Fallas to be “historic” because they are the first to take place following the UNESCO designation.
An estimated one million people came to the city over the weekend. Sandra Gómez, head of the tourism department, said that hotel occupancy rates were close to 100%.
“From a tourism perspective, we can talk about the best Fallas in history,” she said.
The fires began at 10pm on March 19, and within a few hours all the hundreds of fallas scattered across the city had been reduced to ashes, in a rite known by the Valencian term of cremà.
By midnight, the flames had devoured most of the larger, elaborate fallas, which take months to create and are typically satirical representations of people and events that made headlines over the past year.
City Hall had its own falla, and it was the tallest one in the history of the celebration: a 41-meter wooden structure representing a communications tower designed by controversial architect Santiago Calatrava but which was never built.
English version by Susana Urra.