The “Fiesta de la
Primavera” (Spring Festival) in Granada started as an impromptu celebration of
winter’s end a couple of decades ago, a spontaneous street party for the younger
generation in post-Franco Spain. Totally unofficial, it soon attracted
fun-loving people far and wide largely by means of social media. It started in
the picturesque Paseo de los Tristes
on the banks of the River Darro, below the Alhambra, but it soon outgrew that
space. I remember, one morning maybe a dozen years ago, driving to work through
the rubbish and the squalor left behind after one of the first “macrobotellones”
being held in the vicinity of the Bull Ring,

The “botellón” itself
goes back further. In an embryonic form it already existed when I arrived in
Granada in 1990. Botellón, literally “Big Bottle”, might be translated rather
as “Street Bottle Party”. With exorbitant prices in the clubs and discos,
students and young people in general would organise a gathering of peers who
came along with their own alcoholic beverages, brought from home, or bought
beforehand at the supermarket or the local off-licence. On special occasions,
these bottle parties would become huge gatherings of naturally noisy youth, who
would also bring their own ghetto-blasting music, and soon conflicts arose with
local residents. From the start, a favoured venue for these gatherings was just
behind El Corte Ingles on Arabial Street. It was on the edge of the night
entertainment zone, where later they would pay to enter a club for a bop, or
take one last or last-but-one paid-for rum and coke, etc. Further advantages of
the venue were that there was very little through traffic, and not too many
neighbours to disturb.

The state of these
venues the morning after was, as already suggested, often catastrophic with
rubbish, broken glass, and streams of urine to greet local weekend early risers
and dog walkers. The “macrobotellón” differs from an ordinary “botellón” in
being a truly massive special event, as welcoming in the spring obviously is. Botellones
are very common in the south of Spain, not so in the north, presumably for
climatic reasons.

Obviously fulfilling
an urgent need, the botellón phenomenon could not be banned – especially in the
liberal atmosphere of the post-Franco decades – and so the authorities looked
for ways of managing it and limiting the collateral harm they might cause to respectable
and enfranchised citizens. They looked for a place to accommodate them, and
thus the “botellódromo” came into being, the word following the formation of
the word “aerodrome” in English, or salsódromo in Latin America: a place to do
it. The place that was finally chosen is located not far from the venue of the
original unofficial botellones, on the other side of the ring road, past the
Corte Ingles, where the town ends and the countryside starts. Granada is not a
big city, so it is easily accessible and yet out of the way of residents,
shoppers, and conventional clubbers.

The botellódromo does
not have the picturesque setting of the original Paseo de los Tristes site, so
to compensate, and killing two birds with one stone, another element of youth
culture which has proved often to be offensive to the tax-paying voter-citizen
of Granada has been harnessed by officialdom to brighten up the official Big Bottle
Party venue: that is the work of graffiti artists. Pictured we see a street-art
depiction of Granada’s greatest son, the poet Federico García Lorca,
which has just been completed to adorn the venue in time for this year’s Spring
Festival, traditionally held mid- to late March.

Maintaining an
element of spontaneity, the exact date of this year’s celebration is yet to be determined,
Nevertheless, no harm in asking for information from travel agents, such as Sevilla
On Tour, who will be pleased to help you arrange your trip to Granada for the
event. Last year it was on Friday 15 March when more than 18.000 attended the
celebration of their particular rites of spring, leaving behind, for the
record, more than 42 tons of rubbish.

Acknowledgements: L.
Mingorance in Granada Hoy, 12.02.2014