Living the Valencian Dream

I am Emily, this year’s Secretary of the Linguist. I am going into my second year of studying Spanish and Italian. I cannot wait to see what this year has in store for the magazine!

Someone once asked me if I could relive any day in my life, what day would it be? I thought back to the day of the Santa María Magdalena festival I went to in Spain and I remembered what an unforgettable experience that was. I had been staying at my friend Elena’s hometown of Castellón de la Plana, near Valencia.

At some point during the festival, in the evening, one of Elena’s friends taught me a saying they have in Valencia: ‘Estar en la luna de Valencia’, which means ‘to have one’s head in the clouds’. It is something that has always stuck with me, mostly because of how surreal the whole day felt, but I also think it summarised how I struggled to navigate my way through an intense week of speaking Spanish to Elena’s family and friends 24/7, which my Spanish A-level could never have prepared me for.

One afternoon we boarded my friend’s boat at the port of Burriana. At the same port, a group of men dressed in sailor suits got onboard a bigger boat, carrying the statue of María Magdalena, and began their journey down the east coast with our boat following at a distance.

It was a beautiful moment. There was a gorgeous sunset which illuminated the figure of the saint as our boat continued to tail behind. An hour or so later we arrived at Moncofa beach, where the saint was lowered into the water by the sailors and carried across to the shore, where literally thousands of spectators gathered. I had no idea how symbolic this act was, and only discovered later that we had been broadcast live on TV!

Elena introduced me to a few of her friends as the celebrations continued into the evening. I had been in Spain for five days, and I wanted to join in with the conversation without feeling too nervous. Luckily, Elena’s friends were very welcoming, and I just about managed to keep up with their pace by stringing together a few sentences as we wandered past the vibrant food and clothes stalls. The festival culminated in fireworks on the beach and I could not believe how unreal the whole day had been. Strangely, at times I felt like I was on a night out with friends at home; we roamed around the dark streets because Elena’s friend had forgotten where she parked the car, to which another friend responded, ‘está en la luna de Valencia’ (she’s got her head in the clouds).

That day certainly did feel dreamlike, and I can only say in hindsight how important religious festivals are to Spanish communities; how they are fundamental to uniting the spirit of the people and celebrating their faith. I vividly remember feeling as though I had become part of Elena’s circle of friends, who helped me to grow in confidence with my Spanish, which I will forever be thankful for.

Emily Mercer

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