The Andalucian-ness of Andalucians

Feliz Dia de Andalucia!

Andalucians have a sense of local loyalty like noone I’ve ever encountered. They are fiercely proud of their Andalucian-ness, with famous cultural markers such as Moorish architecture, flamenco, bullfighting and Lorca inspiring the kind of adoration that borders on obsession.

This sense of regional identity is instilled from an early age. Over the years, my children have come home from nursery or school at around this time of year, displaying a range of appropriately-coloured adornments symbolising the bandera blanco y verde: masks, flags painted on their faces, and flags in their hands.

This year, in the run up to today’s Dia de Andalucia celebrations, my son’s school focused on Blas Infante, the politician and writer who is known as the “Padre de la Patria Andaluz” (Father of the Andalucia Fatherland). It was Blas Infante who drew up a charter for Andalucia in 1918, also designing the Andalucia flag, based on historical symbols: Hercules, lions and the Pillars of Hercules.

According to legend, the Greek god founded Seville – hence the Alameda de Hercules. Infante also wrote the lyrics to the Andalucia himno (anthem). (Dia de Andalucia itself commemorates a later, but no less significant, event: the referendum for regional autonomy which took place on 28 February 1980.)

My son did a project on the story of Hercules and the two lions featured in the flag, and how the flag got its colours – something to do with one of the lions loving (green) olive trees and vines, and the other loving the frothy (white) waves of the sea. The lyrics of the himno talk of white for peace, and green for hope:

La bandera blanca y verde/Vuelve, tras siglos de guerra/A decir paz y esperanza,/Bajo el sol de nuestra tierra. (The green and white flag/Returns, after centuries of war/To tell of peace and hope/Under the sun of our land.)

His class also visited the great man’s house in Coria del Rio, now preserved as the snappily-titled Museo de la Autonomia de Andalucia. They were given a complicated make-it-yourself version – lots of working out which bit goes with which bit – IKEA in miniature. One for a rainy day.


All this was part of a build-up to the Main Event: their school play. This was called La Mansion Mas Bella, and it was about the eight provinces and all the elements that make up Andalucia.

La Mansion Mas Bella, with its eight provinces.

We had the Sevillanos, Cordobeses, Granadinos et al…

(From left): Cadiz (Carnaval), Almeria (Wild West), Granada (Sultans), Huelva (El Rocio), Malaga, Cordoba (horse-riders), Sevilla (Feria). Jaen (olive farmer?) is just out of shot.

We had the animals

Horses, flamingo, pig (jamon), deer, lynx.

We had the writers

Lorca, Rafael Alberti, and Juan Ramon Jimenez with Platero the donkey.

We had the painters

Daniel Velazquez, Julio Romero de Torres, and Picasso (yes, blonde).

We had the flamenco artists

Paco de Lucia

La Lola Flores (with Camaron de la Isla on the left, and Paco de Lucia on the right).

We had a torero and a toro

Ole!

I am knocked out with admiration for the teachers who put this spectacle on, from the casting, to the rehearsals, teaching them their lines, and supervising them on the day – 50 children coming on in groups with all their props.

My children have a very strong feeling for Andalucia, as Andalucians. As an outsider, I don’t share this sense of belonging. I’m from Essex – we do have a flag, but an anthem?  A school play? As I approach my ninth year here in Andalucia, though, I am beginning to understand its value and power.