Explaining to a ten year old just what a martyr is and how a town can adopt one (“but how many years ago did he die, why did they kill him and how can you adopt someone who is dead”) was my start to this year’s celebration’s of San Sebastián, one of Adeje’s patron saints, and an event that brings residents and tourists out in their thousands to the beach in La Enramada in La Caleta to watch the horses being brought down to the sea for a swim.
The ‘horses on the beach’ section of the day is only a part of a larger celebration, with small folk groups singing, mass, fireworks the night before and the launch of a fantastic book about San Sebastián in Adeje through the eyes of some of the borough’s older residents, but for many it’s the most important bit. And it’s probably one of the occasions when the international resident’s feel very much ‘Adejeros’ as they bring their families to this event year after year, and spend time explaining it to invited guests from abroad or perhaps tourists who stand beside them on the beach waiting for the horses to arrive. The waiting is hours-long for ten or fifteen minutes of equine presence, but that doesn’t really matter. It’s a sunny day, we’re on the beach, with friends and family, it’s a local fiesta, what’s not to like.
And no-one left the scene unhappy. The thousands who arrived (once an elusive parking place had been found) were happy with the spectacle, the kids loved the ponies and donkeys who were also part of the four-legged beach parade, San Sebastián was carried, respectfully, to the water’s edge, homage paid and returned to his church, and people wandered happily home or went back to the plaza to watch the other animals being blessed, enjoy a tapas or two with a beer or glass of wine, music playing, sun shining.
Viva San Sebastiàn, Viva.