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Photo Essay – Festival de la Magdalena 2012 – Castellon de la Plana, Spain

One thing I really love about photography is that many times I use it as my excuse to get out and see the world. I feel the pull to get up, grab my camera and go for a walk –and the feeling is doubled while living abroad. Although, it helps if you know where the action is, it’s also nice just to run into those serendipitous moments where you’re at the right place at the right time. Sometimes to the bigger events I will intentionally bring my  heavy and assuming camera and lens that allows me to slip into the mix of media people to get a few shots — all it takes is a bit of acting like you belong there. A trick I use (when I haven’t already been granted a press pass) is a pretty simple one. I find a gang of press photogs just before the event and strike up a conversation with one just so I can be associated with the group. Usually the person checking credentials won’t have time to check them all and there’s my in. It’s a balance of knowing when to pull out the big guns and go for it, or hang back and play it cool.

This week was the start of The Festival of La Magdalena in Castellón de la Plana, Spain. A week long party that commemorates the birth of the city over 700 years ago. This year unfortunately, it falls just before another major festival just a few miles south of us in Valencia called Las Fallas so, we will only get to see the start of the week. I had no idea this quiet little city could get so loud. I think it helps that the Mascletas (daily at 2pm), parades, concerts, and parties (think marching bands with guns mixed with European techno) are only a few steps away from our apartment.

One event during this Festival called  Romería de las Cañas (Pilgrimage of the Cane) is the most meaningful and historical part of the week for the local residents. Its a symbolic walk from the city center plaza to the ancient ruins of Castellon city in the hills a few miles away that honors the past residents of Castellon who moved the city to the plana (or plains). It was an early wake up call for me (gasp 6:45am!) but my camera made me get up and I couldnt argue. I thought there would be a few people who would get up early from the long night of beer, wine, parades and parties to actually brave the chilly morning walk. Turns out, half the damn town got up and the other half seemed like they hadn’t been home yet. It was amazing to see so many people ready to make the walk, like their ancestors did over 700 years ago.

My spanish is not yet to ‘conversationable’ level so I had to rely on my trick — where were those photojournalists?? There were a few sitting around so I waited until they started to group together because I knew I would get some good angles staying close to them. Due to the masses of people, they had to stay one step ahead of what was going on otherwise it would be impossible to get close. Thankfully, I kept up with them and got a few shots — even though I had no idea what anyone was saying haha. Here are a few shots from the first few days of the Festival de la Magdalena 2012….

At 7am the sun rises just enough to warm the top of The Fadrí – the 200ft. tall bell tower in the Plaza Mayor — and marks the start of the Romería de las Cañas (Pilgrimage of the Cane) for the Festival of La Magdalena in Castellón de la Plana 2012.

Pilgrims young and old grab their bamboo canes to start the  Romería de las Cañas (Pilgrimage of the Cane) for the Festival of La Magdalena in Castellón de la Plana 2012.

A young girl and boy dressed in traditional Spanish clothing prepare for the ceremonial start to the walk.

A great costume is in the details.

A father helps his son with his waist sash before the start of the opening ceremonies.

A young girl wearing the traditional Spanish jewelry and hair pieces.

Waiting to march to the cathedral across the Plaza de Mayor.

Pilgrims enter into the Cathedral de Santa Maria for a blessing before the walk.

The Queen of the Festival gets a few glances as she enters the Cathedral de Santa Maria.

A young woman is escorted by a man during the procession out of the Cathedral.

A family dressed in traditional clothing meet together before the walk through the city.

The city of Castellon follow the procession through the city streets and out to the countryside.

A boy drums to start the first parade of the festival which displays the long and colorful history of this area of Spain.

The festival is also a celebration and competition for the different barrios (neighborhoods) of the city. You can see them
wearing all purple in this image and green in the image below.

A man dressed as a mid-evil joker to start the Cabalgata del Prego (the Ride of Prego)

Men dress like Africans who initially inhabited the Spanish area in the Iberian Peninsula long before Europeans.

Flamenco dancers dancing for miles.

Shotguns blasting into the night sky down a main street to commence the second day of parades.


A Infantils de la Ciutat (Catalan for Kids of the City) are dressed in traditional costumes and walk along side their older counterparts turning every so often for the crowds to clap.

A typical Gaiata fully electrified rolls down the street. Gaiatas represent each barrio and each of the 19 have a different style.

Children and men walk down the street in religious (Catholic) costume.

People get a good look at the Gaiatas from all angles.

Wandering home though the back streets while the parade goes on (…after 3 hrs into it)

The size and scope of this parade as the large Gaiatas roll down the narrow downtown streets and people fit in where they can.

  • kyle s.

    nice work on these. i love the eye contact you got from several of the performers. jaja

    • MikeNyff

      thanks kyle! my favorite one of them all is the capture of the ‘Queen of the Festival’ as she’s walking into the Cathedral. I love the light and the eye contact. 

  • Absolutely amazing! Love ALL of the shots. Thank you for capturing the memories I could not attend. Can’t wait for Las Fallas!