That Madrid is quiet during August doesn’t mean Madrid is dead. There are still loads around and fun to be had. For example Las Fiestas de la Paloma!
Just head down to La Latina and see for yourself as you get swept away by this vibrant fiesta. Thousands of people fill the streets while the bars mount their counters outside and set up outdoor cafés for everyone to enjoy. The men are dressed as the typical chulaposand women are wearing their mantón de Manila.
There is nothing surprising about this late summer fest. August 15 is a national holiday in Spain, The Assumption of the Virgin Mary and Spain in general is a constant party, as towns and cities celebrate their local patron saint’s day, many of which have their feasts on these dates. Madrid has a trio of its own that runs from barrio to barrio. They include San Cayetano in the Plaza de Cascorro and San Lorenzo in Lavapiés, but La Paloma is the king of them all.
La Paloma has been around for ages. Its origins go back to the late 18 century when it is said that a woman named Isabel Tintero saw a bunch of boys playing around rather disrespectfully with an image of the Virgin Mary in some dusty back lot. The name “Paloma” refers to the street where the events took place. She took it from them, cleaned it up and placed it over her front door, where it soon became an object of devotion for Madrileños. Its popularity grew, and with it the need to receive the crowds, first a chapel was erected and then it was turned into a full-fledged church, which still stands today. That’s where they take out an image of the Virgin from and parade it around the neighborhood of La Latina in a procession on the evening of August 15.
The biggest night of the fiesta, though, is the day before, on the 14, when the city literally explodes. The bars and restaurants pump out music into the warm evening air, families of all ages stroll around and then dine at , groups of friends share (liter-sized plastic cups) of beer or . The whole neighborhood buzzes with activity well into the late hours of the night. The best street party of August.
When: From 6 August till 15 August
Where: The big spots are La Latina, el Barrio de la Paloma, La Plaza de la Paja, Calle Bailén, and Las Vistillas. Sort of the same area where many San Isidro celebrations are held, but to a much larger scale.
Information: Fiestas Populares de San Cayetano, San Lorenzo y la Paloma
Thanks to: The La Paloma fiesta, not San Isidro, is Madrid’s biggest street party