¿Por qué Málaga?
What does Malaga offer an Irish traveller considering it as a destination for the first time? Ryanair think they have the answer. Recently announcing a new service to Malaga, they planted two signposts at Knock Airport. One, pointing to Ireland, was attended by a depressed looking woman covered up in raingear. By the Malaga sign – you’ve guessed – stood a bikini-clad lovely drinking champagne.
As the most southerly major city of Europe, Malaga naturally evokes images of warmth and depth: a poet has described the city as a furnace lending heat to the cold of Europe. But the south is associated too with romance and mystery; and Malaga has plenty of this.
Look at some of the names associated with it. La Malagueña, an idealised femme fatale, has inspired music of great pathos even from artists distant from Malaga. La Malagueta, the city’s bullring, was the scene in 1959 of the most heroic mano a mano ever witnessed. The protagonists were the brothers in law Antonio Ordóñez and Luis Miguel Dominguín. Ordóñez was judged by Hemingway, who was present at the duel, to be the greatest of all matadors; Picasso gave this palm to Dominguín. In the end, Ordóñez prevailed in the contest, and his ashes now lie beneath the bullpen of La Malagueta.
Picasso, the city’s most famous son of modern times, was himself exiled from Malaga at the age of ten by his family’s economic circumstances. Years later, he would describe his father’s pain of estrangement: ‘No Malaga, no bulls, no friends, nothing’.
And what about the symbolism of Malaga’s church names? You have Lágrimas y Favores, to which the actor Antonio Banderas returns each year as major-domo for the opening procession of the Semana Santa. He professes to be driven to this out of loyalty to the church in which he was baptized, and respect for his local confraternity. Banderas also does duty as a throne bearer for the Virgen de los ojos verdes at the procession of Holy Thursday from the Esperanza Church. Despite his celebrity status, the local media like to represent Banderas’ service in the Semana Santa – como un hermano más, as that of just one of the 70,000 cofrades attached to Malaga’s confraternities.
So, enjoy Malaga’s sun by all means. But also get to know a city knocked about by history and deeply protective of its traditions.
¡Enhorabuena a todos los participantes!