American in Spain

Batalla de Flores 2011 - Laredo, Spain

August 27, 2011
Batalla de Flores

On the last Friday of August every year, the nearby tourist town of Laredo hosts their annual Batalla de Flores (Flower Battle). It consists of a parade of floats, decorated entirely with real flowers. The floats range from fairly simple – but more complex than I could construct – numbers with a cartoon character or two, to huge elaborate contraptions with various animals or other themes. Each float is decorated with some sort of Homo sapiens specimens deemed to be cute, usually small children or young maidens in elaborate costumes. The floats are judged on a variety of categories:

  • Presentation: relative to the size of the float, the combination of diverse pieces and parts, and complexity of the float
  • Art: the general beauty, composition, design, originality and "wow factor"
  • Flowers: how well the flowers are nailed to the float, and the general quality of the floral craftsmanship
  • Quantity of flowers: the percentage of the float covered in flowers

There is also a separate prize for the best dressed human ornaments. During the video you're about to see, the announcer mentions that this year, there were floats that had more than 100,000 flowers on them. Wow! Having lived in the area longer than anywhere besides our parents' houses, my wife and I are pretty much like locals, and we know the tricks involved with each festivity. Like how there are absolutely zero parking spaces available in Laredo around the start of the Batalla de Flores. Literally zero. Since we were invited to a dinner with friends after the parade, we needed to have a car to drive home. So, like last year, we parked our car in Laredo the day before! Nora and I took the car to Laredo on Thursday, with Nora screaming the whole way since she can't stand to be in the car for more than, well, zero seconds. Even on Thursday, after the four minute drive to Laredo, it took me twenty minutes of driving around before I got lucky and found someone leaving a space. We then took a bus back to Colindres, and when it came time to go to the parade, we walked the 40 minutes it takes to get there.

Our dinner companions are even more local, and they knew that if they came right after the parade was over, that all the streets the parade used would be cleaned and reopened for parking. But they don't have two-year-olds that love flowers and music...

The forecast had predicted rain, but we got lucky...sort of. Towards the end of the parade, it got really windy, and soon after it stopped, it got very cold. I had on a denim jacket and long trousers and I was quite cold. "They really should have this festival in the summer," I quipped. After the parade, we struggled to push our stroller through the throngs of people and eventually decided to sit down for a beer. Just then, a local marching band took shelter from the wind near where we were seated, and we were treated to live marching and pop-to-band-converted music for about an hour.

Batalla de Flores Nip Slip

This is a frame from the video. Can you imagine a float like this in a parade in the United States of America? A bare breast, and pubic hair! Cover your child's eyes! The horror!!! I distinctly remember not only watching The Wardrobe Malfuction live at 4 AM from my home in England, but later listening to a radio report in which an American said that it was "the most disgusting thing [he'd] ever seen on television." What a sad, sad state of human affairs. Rant over.

The video below shows almost all of the floats. We got there a little late, so they were on their final of two (three?) laps around the circuit. There was a lot of stoppages and boring waiting periods that you have been spared through the magic of video editing, so be grateful for the succinctness of the video. At the end, you can see Nora dancing to the music at the café, and the other people in a general state of joy. The Spanish do love to have their festivals, as does Nora. The following day, when listening to another marching band when it was time to go home, Nora said, "I don't want to go home; I want to stay here with the music all night!"