Imprisoned on the desolate Atlantic island of St Helena, Napoleon probably had plenty of time to rue and regret his fall from power. Where had it all gone wrong? Trafalgar, the French Invasion of Russia, or Waterloo?
Back in 1809, the men and women of Vigo took up arms and chased the French oppressors out of town. Simple as that. And about as quick.
However, the recapture (or reconquest) of Vigo marked the beginning of a bad run for Napoleon and the Vigueses are keen to celebrate it - with ever-growing enthusiasm each year.
And that's the fantastic thing about the Spanish any-excuse-for-a-party attitude. Historical facts and figures (Vigo was occupied for the grand total of two months) are thrown out with the French and the city revels in tradition, pride and legacy.
The celebration mirrors many of the other Galician and Spanish historical festivals, in that the old town, ‘o casco vello’ is packed full of wooden food, drink, bagpipes, hay and trinket stalls and the city becomes a living costume drama for the weekend.
The representation of the actual reconquista is relatively bloodless, although the specially-reconstructed city gates take a decent hacking. The French are suitably arrogant and the whole scene degenerates into some enthusiastic pantomime - with the obligatory audience participation. Plenty of insults fly and after a tide of abuse from the public, the French are forced onto a boat by a handful of mean-looking, but exceptionally well-dressed crimson warriors and a harmless-looking woman playing what looks like a jewellery box (it's actually a hurdy gurdy).Jester
Of course, the wily Vigueses should really be applauded for executing such a quick, bloodless and execution-free coup – just like thousands of real-life Spanish Mandela’s.
The party though, packs a lot more punch and, with the principal square cleansed of los putos franceses (learn that one if you're planning on visiting), people are free to begin the real reconquest of Vigo. Music fills the streets as tambourines, gaitas (Galician bagpipes) and drunkards dance along, around and about them. Street food and drink is served in the abundance and the crowd washes down pulpo (octopus) and filloas (pancakes) with wines, liqueurs and merriment, invoking the days of rum barrels and hearty laughter.
Waterloo? Great song.
more info at the official Reconquista site: www.reconquistadevigo.com
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