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Dragons, politicians go up in flames in Spain's fiery festival

Dragons, politicians go up in flames in Spain's fiery festival
March 20, 2019
VALENCIA, Spain (Reuters) – Valencia’s Las Fallas festival lit up on the early hours of Wednesday the Mediterranean sky with fireworks and flames from blazing sculptures of all shapes and sizes - beautiful amazons, fairytale dragons and cartoonish effigies of politicians such as U.S. President Donald Trump. The festival, during which hundreds of intricate ‘ninots’, the Valencian name for papier-mâché dolls, are brought into the streets and then burned on the last day, is a centuries-old tradition honoring St Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. The themed dolls and doll sets, some as big as a four-story building, are made by groups of artisans and cost hundreds of thousands of euros to produce. In 2016 UNESCO, recognized Las Fallas as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The themes vary from musicals and magic to hot social and political issues, with the current edition featuring women’s rights, the global rise of populism and the far right or Catalonia’s bid to gain independence from Spain. In one ensemble, a sculpture of Trump wearing nothing but a cowboy hat appeared alongside equally naked Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Spain’s former dictator, Francisco Franco. The divisive planned removal of Franco’s body from a state mausoleum also merited comic references. Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was pictured as a prince waking “Sleeping Beauty” Franco from his tomb. In another, a grinning Sanchez flies a government jet in an allusion to allegations that he used one for private trips. Each year, members of the public vote on their favorite sculptures to save the best two from the final bonfire called “Cremà”. The festival is believed to have originated from pagan rituals marking the end of winter.