Welcome to my "San Isidro" description page, for photos & videos of this event click --> HERE.
San Isidro (San Isidro Labrador) is the patron saint of the peasants and laborersand is also the patron saint of Madrid. Tradition has it that on May 15th the people of Madrid are to make a pilgrimage to San Isidro's meadow to celebrate his day and to drink the holy water of his fountain in his hermitage's patio. Madrid's biggest "fiesta" (party) is celebrated yearly starting on the Friday before the 15th and running until the following Sunday, 9 days of Saintly jubilee throughout the Comunity of Madrid. Many revelers still dress up in the traditional garb of the "época" (period) called "Chulapo or Chulapa" (Men are "Chulapos" and women "Chulapas") which is Madrid's national dress. "Chulapa/o" comes from the word "Chulo" which means "a bit full of oneself" or "very dapper" and since the Madrileños (those from Madrid) are the most "dapper", the name stuck. They pride themselves on being true Madrileños and the men wear a checkered cap, waistcoat and handkerchief around their necks while the women's getup is composed of fancy lace ridden dresses complete with a headress and "Mantón" (elegant wrap around shawl). Dress contests are held each year and this photo is of the winning Mantón from the San Isidro 2001 festival.
Snack venders with "Barquilleros" (roughly translated as "wafer barell organs") can be found everywhere selling their "Barquillos" (wafers known as "pan de angel" or "angel’s bread"), some dipped in chocolate and others just plain wafery! In modern Madrid you pay for one (200 pesetas during the festival and a bit less all year round) and get only 1 but in the old days they would spin the "Barquillero" wheel and you either won the right to 1 or 2 treats. These snacks are traditional of festivals in Madrid but you can find them all year round as well.
The most representative characteristic of the San Isidro festival in Madrid is the music heard eminating from every corner of the city and the dancing that accompanies it. The main stage is always in the Plaza Mayor and during every day and night of the 9 day festival, one can enjoy various concerts and traditional dancing. This year (2001) saw a decent program with "Hevia" (a rather popular bagpipe and wind instrument player from Asturias, northern Spain) as the opening act on Friday night, May 11th. Another great venue for live acts is the park of "Las Vistillas" next to the Palacio Real where there is also a nightly concert. The even bigger venue in the Casa de Campo has rock concerts. You can see some great and comprehensive footage of the concerts, dances and special events of San Isidro on my photo pages by clicking here.
For aficionados (fans) San Isidro is also the ultimate bullfighting festival. Scoring tickets to the hot "corridas" (bullfights) can be next to impossible unless you have "enchufe" (a contact). You can always see what's on the program for the festival (as well as for Madrid bullfighting in general) at www.las-ventas.com (website in Spanish only).
Legend has it that San Isidro was a poor peasant farmer and he and his wife (Santa María de la Cabeza) were very popular due to their generosity and always donating food to the poor. So, although the tradition and background of San Isidro is religious and rather mellow, as per usual, it did not take much arm-twisting for the Spaniards (Madrileños to be exact) to turn it into a veritable bash. Long live the fiestas of Spain! Any wonder why I love Madrid so much!
San Isidro has been an official festival in Madrid since 1947 and while technically the festivities run from May 8th to the 15th, like good Spaniards they stretch the fun and ALWAYS start earlier and end later. The festival actually begins with the Mayor's speach on the Friday afternoon prior to the 15th and ends with the Cocido Madrileño Popular Cookout on the Sunday following the 15th. For comments and discussion on all Spanish edibles and drinkables, check out the Spanish Food Forum on my Ultimate Spain Message Board, click HERE.
As a final note, traditionally San Isidro is also invoked to bring rain to the land.
Ticket office: opens March to October, Thursday to Sunday 10am to 2pm and 5pm to 8pm. Credit cards not accepted. General info on San Isidro on telf. 010 or at tourist offices.
*If you have entered this page directly from a search engine or another website, don't miss my San Isidro photo pages.