The great day of the Society
The MantonFest was born as a popular celebration in 1927, as a result of a disagreement among the "Clavarias of San Venancio". The band of "Los Feos" decided to hold its own celebration, exclusively for "feas" women.
The inspired idea of one of its directors, Salvador Ortiz Guerrero, alias "Triparrós", served to give concrete form to the festival, with the dedicated collaboration of a handful of "feas" women. Leading them for many years was Josefa Rodríguez, or "Pepa la Francha", who became the first president of the MantonFest committee.
Although the first MantonFest was improvised, it already had its Queen, Asunción González Sáez, daughter of "Tío Mateo 'El Esquilaor'". She was lucky enough to acquire the bouquet of flowers that accredited her as Queen in an auction for the high sum of 18 pesetas, which would later be replaced by the sash or ribbon that they now wear as their emblem.
In its early days, the festival consisted mainly of two days during the month of May. On the first day, the proclamation act of the MantonFest queen was celebrated at the Penella Theater in Buñol. During this event, the band of music offered a concert and the honor insignia was awarded to the lady or young woman who was crowned as Queen. The following day, in the morning, the band performed a parade with heralds and sparklers mounted on horses, touring the entire town, "Las Ventas" and "El Castillo", to end at the social club of "Rosales".
At 4:30 pm, before the MantonFest parade, the "Enramá de la Murta" was carried out, a tradition in which the street through which the festival would pass was carpeted with myrtle and other fragrant herbs. This task was carried out by the famous "Peña del Fiambre" and has continued to the present day.
At 5:30 pm, the majestic shawl walk began. The "heraldos" and "chisperos" opened the march, followed by dozens of beautiful women from Buñol and Valencia, wearing gorgeous "mantones de Manila" as they paraded accompanied by the music of the band to the rhythm of beautiful pasodobles. As they passed by the social club of Rosales, a pretty ribbon was bestowed upon them. At the end of the parade in the beautifully decorated "Paseo de San Luis", in front of the chapel of the patron saint of Buñol, San Luis Bertrán, the society's orchestra enlivened a great dance. Once it was over, the procession returned from San Luis to Rosales, where a reception was held to mark the end of the festival.
The MantonFest was renowned for being a marriage-making event, as many of the women who wore the beautiful "mantones de Manila" found partners during the celebration. After the dance, it was common for the "mantoneras" to return home paired up with the young men they had met during the celebration. In fact, it is said that this festival is comparable to the feast of San Antonio, as some of these chance encounters led to marriages.
The MantonFest stopped only during the spanish civil war, while the "Union Musical" remained. However, the celebration resumed in 1945 and has not been interrupted since.
Over the years, the festival has evolved and has been moved from may to august, in agreement with the local authorities, becoming an important part of the Buñol fair and festival programming.
Since 1955, the Queen of the MantonFest has been accompanied by the figure of the children's Queen, who represents all the boys and girls in the great "Fea" family. The first to hold this title was little Mª Carmen Ferrer. In addition, the figure of society Representative in the Court of Honor of the Queen of the Buñol festivities has also been added to the celebration. For some years now, a young lady from the Court of Honor of the Queen of the MantonFest has played this role of Representative.
In its beginnings, the ribbon or badge accrediting the reign was auctioned and offered to the highest bidder, who would give it to his girlfriend, wife, sister, daughter, granddaughter, relative, or simply a friend.
There have also been changes in the celebration of the Mantonfest itself. From a simple festivity, it has transformed into a grand parade of floats and carnival groups, rather a colossal and majestic procession. It has gone from being a social, almost intimate and particular festival, to a popular and crowded demonstration of the festive character of a town. The dozens of "mantoneras" couples have become hundreds, thanks to the family and generational transmission of tradition. The "mantoneras" proudly display the shawls of their mothers or grandmothers, considering these garments as invaluable jewels.
The "Peña del Fiambre", now known as "Amigos del Espliégol", has also survived to this day. The children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of the first "fiambreros" still take care of raising, collecting, and planting myrtle along the festive route. Nowadays, the route takes place from the Violeta Avenue, where the Montecarlo Theater of the society is located, to the San Luis promenade, where the fairground is located.
The organization of the parade is in the hands of the Women's Committee of the MantonFest, who not only organize it but also design and create some of the floats and groups. They dedicate their time throughout the year to this work and have been doing so for many years.
But the MantonFest itself revolves around two main figures: the Manila shawl and the woman who wears it. The beauty and color of the shawls are combined with the elegance and grace of the beautiful female participants, who parade like true models accompanied by their male partners, also dressed in a serious and elegant manner, with cigars in hand. Music is also a basic ingredient of the festival, which accompanies and brightens up everyone present, whether participants or not.
And the day of the MantonFest arrives.The atmosphere of celebration can be felt in the air, perceived in every corner of Buñol. Men, women, and children dressed in the typical attire of the town are preparing for the big day. The men and boys wear black suits with stripes, caps, vests, neck and waist scarves, and guitar-shaped espadrilles. They are the "buñoleros". The women, on the other hand, wear corsets and pleated skirts, multicolored blouses, aprons, and carefully elaborated hairstyles with waves held in place by fine and beautiful pins, as well as shiny earrings, necklaces, and equally well-maintained espadrilles. What beauty! They are the "buñoleras"!
They all carry baskets and bouquets of beautiful flowers and fruits, preparing for the most important event of the year: the offering to the "Virgen de los Desamparados", patron saint of Buñol, whose image awaits on the facade of the parish church of San Pedro Apóstol. The procession starts from the door of the Montecarlo Theater, and the women of the commission are in charge of its organization.
Hundreds of carriers with dozens of ornamental motifs packed with fresh and fragrant flowers march through the streets of Buñol, displaying a magnificent floral monument different and renewed each year. This monument is carried by 24 men from the "El Embutío" association, who dedicate themselves completely to their task and give their all to reach the virgin. It is a unique and emotional act that everyone in Buñol eagerly awaits and celebrates with great devotion and joy.
The floral monument at the feet of the Virgin begins to be covered with multicolored dots and monumental ornaments made of flowers. The last flowers for the Virgin are deposited by the Representative and the Major and Child Queens of the MantonFest, who, with tears in their eyes, pray to the Virgin while listening to the vibrant and triumphant notes of the hymn of the "Feos" that the band plays near them.
And the music continues, as it has since early morning, accompanying queens and processions from their homes until they end up at the door of the Montecarlo Theater with the shawl drawing. There they agree to meet in the afternoon. Everyone eats and replenishes their strength for what awaits them in a few hours. Everyone rests, those who can. Because hairdressers, tailors, florists, makeup artists, tractor drivers, electric technicians, hundreds of musicians, coachbuilders, "peñas", hundreds of participants in the parades and floats, Board of Directors, Women's Commission, Queens and families, have to prepare themselves and prepare everything for the Mantonfest to run smoothly.
Just like in the morning, the afternoon is filled with a large number of people, each doing their own thing, although the decoration changes dramatically and the variety of outfits is enormous. When you turn a corner, you can come across anything. The grand and colorful parade begins to organize, stretching for almost a kilometer from the Montecarlo Theater to "La Violeta". Along the route, people prepare to witness the spectacle. Since dawn, neighbors have been placing chairs brought from their homes on the sidewalks and in free places on the streets, tying them together and marking them to distinguish their property. The town for the town, and every available square meter is disputed by those who do not want to miss anything.
The Women's Commission and their collaborators are organizing the parade in an orderly manner, finalizing details and resolving the inevitable last-minute problems that arise in a festival of this magnitude.
The great float of "La Murta" sets out to roam the streets, filling the atmosphere with its fresh fragrance and receiving the first applause from the crowd. Around eight o'clock in the evening, the parade sets off towards San Luis amidst music, cheers of greetings and admiration, and festive jubilation. Large and sumptuous floats move through the streets filled with men, women, and children wearing costumes and outfits related to each dedicated theme. The groups of energetic and boisterous young people dance and sing to the rhythm of the music band while wearing multicolored disguises.
Joy, inhibition, and festive freedom are felt in the atmosphere. The couples carrying the shawls pass by with their two or three long and endless columns. Color, beauty, and sympathy abound, and the emotional tears of parents, mothers, and grandmothers overflow as they see their daughters or granddaughters, young and beautiful, elegant, evoking pleasant memories of youth. Even foreigners and visitors are amazed to witness such a display of class and beauty and are captivated by the images they eagerly see before their eyes.
The shawls precede the last floats, occupied by the Representative and Queens of the previous year, accompanied by music bands and a special color of light and beauty.
Finally, on foot, the Representatives and the Adult and Child Queens of the current year's MantonFest parade, alongside their cCurts of Honor. Behind them, with pride, marches the Board of Directors to the beat of cheerful musical notes played by their band. This is the grand finale. The crowd, perhaps even larger than at the beginning, applauds enthusiastically, responding to the warm and smiling greeting of the queens, who with tears of emotion in their eyes, tirelessly wave their hands on both sides, as if they wanted to greet everyone. And the people surrender to them, because they truly look like authentic queens, with their impressive dresses, sparkling jewelry, crowns, and sashes of Queens of the MantonFest.
Undoubtedly, this experience will be etched in the memories of those who lived it. It is a unique and different experience that only they can experience. They were chosen to enjoy this moment, and they thank it by completely surrendering themselves to the love, respect, and admiration of locals and visitors.
The closing of the MantonFest takes place with the return from San Luis of most of the "mantoneros", followed by the Queens, the Courts of Honor, and the entourages with the band of music, until they reach the door of Rosales, where the hymn of the "Feos" is sung. Then, a beautiful fireworks display can be enjoyed nearby. Everyone wishes to have the opportunity to be present at another celebration of the MantonFest of the "La Artística" Musical Society of Buñol next year.