A wedding in La Alberca
I'd visited La Alberca three or four times, but this trip was different.
Might be that we spent the night - two, in fact. Might be that we stayed at a lovely casa rural poised above the river, a casa rural owned by the mother of a friend in Salamanca. A friend who generously spent her own weekend en el pueblo showing us her home town.
We'd barely dropped our bags when our native guide burst in to tell us us we'd hit the village on a good night. An alborada would leave the Plaza at midnight to wind through the village's serpentine streets and serenade a local couple marrying the next day in La Alberca's church.
After a sunset hike to the crumbling Ermita of San Marcos, we feasted on a cena sent by my travelling companion's typically generous Spanish mother, and headed to one of the Plaza Mayor's bars to await midnight.
When the long awaited hour arrived, we made our way along one of the narrow streets leading out of the Plaza. We soon found ourselves surrounded by a crowd of revelers, young and old, local and visiting, mulling outside an out of the way bar. Some women were dancing to the music of the tamborilero (a one man band of drum and flute) while the volunteer chorus of the night's alborada gathered behind them.
Within a few minutes, the tamborilero started his ascent toward the groom's house with a crowd of 60 or 70 in tow. As we walked, windows opened and animated hands leaped out, waving, some accompanied by a smiling face, when the window was large enough. Doors opened and closed on either side of us as villagers left their homes to join the parade. By the time we reached the lawn below the balcony of the groom's family home, we were 100 smiling faces strong.
The grinning novio and his parents took their places on the balcony, and the music began. While the tamborilero played his drum and flute, villagers and friends of the couple, many with song sheets in hand, sang out a traditional tune with comic lyrics written for the occasion. When they'd finished, the family applauded from above, then instantly appeared below, where they mixed with the crowd, pouring sangría and filling us with tray after tray of homemade sweets.
Before long the tamborilero's steady beat marked the time to move on. The groom and his parents joined the procession as we paraded back toward the center of town. We stopped below a tiny blue-shuttered window in a lovely old traditional house, the same house I'd silently noted as a photo subject for the next day's camera wanderings during our first pass through town. It was a small window, just big enough for the bride's small, esctatic face.
She grinned and her friends and neighbors broke into song. The serenade was repeated from start to finish. When we ran out of verses, we turned back to sangría and sweets. Her grandparents found safe harbor on the stoop of the family home, side by side, quietly watching the festivities. The tamborilero started up another tune and a traditional dance party ensued, a party that was still going strong when we turned to wend out way back to our casa rural a little before 2.
Our native explained that La Alberca is treated to an alborada and at least one wedding almost every weekend during the summer. It is only one of many centuries-old traditions faithfully and (I can attest to this) enthusiastically practiced in this cleverly prosperous village.
During the alborada, our fellow chorus members recommended we try to see the wedding procession the next day, if only to catch sight of the mother of the groom in the famous traditional dress of La Alberca, the traje de vistas. And so, Saturday morning we stood in the plaza by the town's church and cheered on the novios' family and friends while they paraded to the church in traditional dress. Again the tamborilero led the way, this time with a partner drum-and-fifer and the dancing castanet player whose boots you see in this photo. The morning of a wedding the town's musicians lead a procession to the groom's home where they pick up the groom and his family before continuing on the bride's family home and finally to the church.
In the plaza the musicians flanked the main doors of the church, playing their hearts out while the the wedding party paraded through the huge wooden doors. A young charro led the prcoession carrying a small tree decorated with obleas, sweet wafers I've devoured on more than one occasion in the Salamanca home of my La Alberca friend.
The grooms' mother arrived, glowing, in the traje de vistas strung from collar to skirt with silver amulets, reliqueries and long, filigreed chains. When the last of the party had passed through the doors, the musicians wound up their final tune, removed their hats and entered the church, closing the doors behind them.
A little over an hour later, those doors flung open as a crowd of charros and musicians flowed back out into the plaza to celebrate the wedding.
The tamborileros played, the charros danced and a young man tossed the sweets laden tree into the plaze for the town's children, who seemed well trained in the process. They stomped, elbowed and tripped over each other to tear off the sweet obleas, their prize for the happiness of the bride and groom.
After much dancing, greeting and photo taking, the tamborileros led the crowd through the Plaza Mayor toward the wedding reception, which our host, an invited guest, later assured us started with an apertif of exquisite jamón, supplied by the father of the bride's jamonería. The starters continued until it was time to begin the cena, at just about 1130 that evening.
I was told the alborada is a couple's way of inviting the whole town to celebrate their happiness. I have seldom felt less like an outsider. Yet surely all those sangría pouring relatives sensed we were visitors?
In short, my first wedding in La Alberca was enough to inspire vivid fantasies about living in the village, if only on summer wedding weekends.
Labels: wanders and travels