Thursday, August 30, 2012

A day out at the traditional market in Porrua

Fiesta season is in full swing here in Asturias. August, being the main holiday month, is busy with tourists enjoying the warm summer sunshine and families returning to their village or family homes for a summer break. With lots of people around, there is no better time than August to organise a traditional Asturian market.

Porrua is a large village nestled between the coast and the mountains about 15 minutes from La Pasera. It has an old charm about it with many Indiano-style houses built at the turn of the century and quite few new small hotels and holiday homes.

Each year Porrua hosts a very popular traditional market. This year like previous years, it was spectacular and well worth a few hours soaking in the atmosphere, watching the street entertainers, admiring the many craft stalls (and resist buying) or sampling the delights of the food and drinks stalls.

We arrived early and parked up in a local field that had been given over to parking. As you approach Porrua, you can appreciate its position with a panoramic, green and rocky backdrop. People were already gathering and drinking coffee in one of the very few bars in the village.

We wandered though several narrow twisting streets and admired the quaint village houses and barns, some restored whilst others remain untouched and neglected.

The market takes place over two days in the centre of the village which boasts a large circular meeting place. With its mature plane trees grafted together forming perfect shade, this communal space in the centre of the village is magical. The craft stalls are sited around the outside whilst the food and drink stalls occupy the shady central part.

At events like these I always wonder how the crafts people can make enough money? The stall rent is very expensive and being over two days, with travel and accommodation, the cost of materials and their time, that is a lot of money to re-coup before making a profit. Some people think that hand-made goods are expensive but taking everything into account, they are not.

As you enter the market, the atmosphere starts to build, it doesn't take much to imagine yourself in medieval times. Going along to market days with the hustle and bustle of travellers and traders, farmers and locals gathering to barter and trade their goods.

All the roads, footpaths and passage ways are strewn with straw and each stall is decked out in hessian, ferns/bracken and other natural products. All the stall holders are in traditional dress and many of the local children also take the opportunity to dress in costume.

The craft stalls, many with live demonstrations, were busy setting up when we arrived and setting out their wares which included leather goods, pottery, fibre crafts, jewellery, soaps, musical instruments, book bindings, puppets, miniature sculptures, spoons, models, ironworks and paintings to list a few.

As the market came awake, wood smoke from the massive barbecue permeated the morning air and the official opening commenced. A street parade gathered and oxen and carts, giant comedic characters, donkeys, musicians, and a range of street entertainers took up position and made their way merrily through the narrow streets towards the market.


The parade is accompanied by dancers and musicians dressed in traditional costume. It is a busy time for these performers as they have many fiestas to attend. The women wear heavy woollen skirts and handwoven shawls. The pipes here in Asturias are a type of bag pipe called the Gaita and played by a Gaitero. You can hear some of the music in the video below.

Throughout the day, the street entertainers perform much to the delight of the growing crowds. The smell of roasted costillas (ribs) and chorizo coming from the gigantic barbecue trigger people's appetite and the food stalls begin to feed the masses as children ride around the atrium on the backs of donkeys and on carts pulled by oxen.

Visiting Porrua will be an annual pilgrimage for us. It is such a wonderful way to pass a few hours, with time to sit and watch the world go by and appreciate its magical atmosphere. Its gentle rhythm, its constant hum and its colourful spectacle occasionally punctuated by dancers, musicians, jugglers and characters.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful photos! I´m envious, I love these fairs. Managed to miss the medieval fairs both in A Coruña and Melide. But someday. . .


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