When you live on the hyphen your grip is somewhat strengthened by quaintness. So last Sunday I swung, metaphorically speaking, over to the Spanish side of my Anglo/Latin dilemma with this very sweet and utterly pointless ritual in the main street of Alcalá.
Though someone with well-trained critical faculties, I nonetheless tend to reserve – or even suspend – judgement when things quaint are combined with things cute (and nobody gets hurt).
And so it was amidst the horses, dogs, birds, rabbits and weasel lining up to be blessed by the clergy in Europe´s oldest “hospital”, the Antezana in Alcalá, (twelve beds), in the name of Saint Antón.
This is definitely what I signed up for! Old buildings from the 15th century, silly traditions and lots and lots of little animals! It goes like this. On the 23rd of January the devout, and not so devout, drag, cajole, or otherwise bring their pets along to receive the blessing of San Antón and a small bap of bread. Fortunately the police are in attendance, since the invitation is extended, not only to domestic pets, but to working animals, such as mules, pulling traps and huge, beautiful horses with pleated or cropped tails.
Had we not been standing on cobbled and paved streets the manure issuing from the tens of horses would have fertilized the good earth. And despite the police tape, one enormous, choppy, white Arabian stallion and its chaps-wearing rider cowed a clutch of us in on the pavement as it clipped and pawed its way through its paces as though it owned our destinies and our souls.
Nobody, thankfully, was hurt, and we were all blessed. So, Happy St. Antón, and thank you for another lovely day in Spain.