The city of Valencia in Spain celebrates the annual fire festival of Las Fallas. Las Fallas is celebrated each year beginning the first Sunday of March to commemorate St. Joseph’s Day, the Patron Saint of Carpenters. The St. Joseph bonfires began sometime in the 18th century and gradually developed into one of Spain’s largest fiestas. To honor the carpenters, enormously elaborate figures are constructed from wood and paper mâché and then burned on the last day of the fiesta. Teams of artists, craftsmen and carpenters spend an entire year to build the statues that range from a few thousand to a few hundred thousand dollars. I could not imagine how hundreds of building sized statues could burn without turning the city into pure mayhem and a pile of smoldering ashes. The locals ensured me of my safety and suggested I get as close to the flames as possible to fully experience the excitement of the crema (burning) on La Nit del Foc (night of fire).
Alex has written for Vanity Fair, Barrons, Bloomberg and Condé Nast Traveler.