Beyond the Walls, Alegría by Mat Dowsett

Pamplona. Home of the running of the bulls and the fiesta to end all fiestas. San Fermín draws a varied and international following, but very few foreign visitors are aware that Pamplona is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fiestas and bulls. Across Spain and beyond there are many hundreds of fiestas and thousands of encierros every year. Within the old walls of Pamplona a local drama is played out on an international stage, but beyond the walls are the unseen and untold tales of the people, the bulls and the streets of these other fiestas.

“Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.” Emily Dickinson.
A single and unifying element of the fiestas of Navarra is to be found in the interaction of people and streets when the txupinzo has taken place. The anticipation of those days of joy, the pent-up emotions and overwhelming sense of goodwill suddenly comes pouring out in a wave of happiness and mutual celebration. This is alegría.

Alegría is a simple and uncomplicated feeling that can be overwhelming or can actually be very childlike. Alegría is very personal, but some might compare it to a form of enlightenment; when the mind and body become at ease, at one with their environment and when all cares and concerns melt away into the trivial echoes of somewhere else.
On the streets of a Navarran town in fiestas the collective spirit, the unity and the humanity brought together is accompanied by music, dancing, food and drink. It is difficult in these times not to feel the sense of joy, very much like Christmas morning. This feeds the soul.
To celebrate is to live, and to celebrate with friends is to live many times over. When the feeling of alegría is shared then it becomes memorable.

Here, in the photograph, is a personal moment of alegría. This is the Navarran city of Tafalla less than an hour after the txupinazo on the 14th August in a year not too long ago. The scene is very familiar as friends, in the spirit of the moment, sing along with each other with shared happiness and in the knowledge that the fiesta is stretching out in front of them like a lush, green plain.

This is our fiesta, our alegría.