Letters from Madrid – Fiesta de San Ysidro — Vistillas


The last night of the San Ysidro Fiestas in Madrid, back in 1996, turned out to be magic, despite the rain and cold.

27 May 1996

San Ysidro Festival
There was a lot of rain during the week of San Ysidro Fiestas, so we missed a lot of the activities and concerts. We had to choose between one of fifteen events happening at any given time. The last night of the fiestas we first tried to go to the battle of the bands. They wanted 1000 ptas a person to get in. I did not have that much money on me, plus it was starting to rain. The rain began to come down hard as we made our way to Vistillas, a park in the old part of Madrid. As we climbed the hill to the plaza, we heard what sounded like a recording of Gloria Estefan. It turned out to be a local band “Orquestra Tabarca,” who were very good. There was a sparse crowd because of the rain. We danced salsa and swing on the plaza, in the rain, for over an hour. After Tabarca played, much to our surprise, José Mercé and Moraíto Chico, appeared on stage. It was 10 PM, cold and raining hard. The plaza was now packed with fans, cheering, singing along, and doing palmas. We were up at the front of the stage very close to José and Moraíto. The performance was outstanding, very intimate and magical. The very enthusiastic, die hard fans braving the cold, the wind, the rain to hear José’s expression of pain and sorrow, love and laughter, life and death, bearing his soul through his song, and Moraíto’s masterful accompaniment, added to the romance between the performers and their fans. They played, with much encouragement from the cold, wet crowd, for almost an hour, which was very considerate and well beyond the call of duty. I had only heard José Mercé on disc before that night, and was pretty much ambivalent; however, I became a fan that night. For a matter of fact, we can’t even listen to his disc at present because it sounds so processed and impersonal. After José Mercé played, Orquestra Tabarca played a set, there was a fantastic fire works display, and then Tabarca played again. The rain had ceased, so we danced along with several other people in the crowd until the band quit playing. As I mentioned, there were many, way too many, great looking events scheduled for the week of San Ysidro Fiesta. The problem was it rained so much we did not go out to see many of the events we were interested in. Most everything was outside, and our stamina for standing in the rain is limited. I guess San Ysidro can still bring water even hundreds of years after his death.

Jose Merce y Moraito Chico Bularias 2010 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJ-_nJ2_3c4

12 thoughts on “Letters from Madrid – Fiesta de San Ysidro — Vistillas

  1. Dancing in the rain . . . what a wonderful memory that must be. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.

  2. It is fortuitous that you took the time to record what you saw, heard and were thinking during those years overseas. Those letters are a wonderful legacy of writings and photographs to leave to Tristan someday. Thanks for sharing them with us.

  3. So wonderful not just to have these memories, but to have a record of them too. I always think I’ll remember things, but even the most vivid experiences meld into the mists of half forgotten over time.

    • Thanks, Julia. Although faded memories often get jolted back into our minds by someone’s thoughts, words or deeds expressed or done.

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