May 15 is San Isidro Day, the day of Madrid’s patron saint. In true Madrileño fashion, that requires festivities from now (Friday) through Monday. As M would say: Madrid is back. It hasn’t been able to celebrate San Isidro Day since 2019, so it’s making up for lost time.
This is the point where I planned to insert a few facts about San Isidro, who is also the patron saint of farmers and laborers. The first website I found about him is so much better than anything I might come up with that I’d rather just quote it.
San Isidro is pretty much your typical saint. Lots of his miracles involved water and wells. A flood exhumed his body half a century after he died: as is usually the case when this happens to a saint’s body, it was not gross and smelled like flowers.
The San Isidro party gets kicked off on Friday when kids go to school dressed in the sorts of traditional outfits the Madrid working class (known as chulapas and chulapos) adopted in the 19th century to differentiate themselves from the frenchified social elite (remember, Napoleon had installed his brother as the ruler of Spain).
Last week, a big conversation took place on one of the expat WhatsApp chats. A mom asked: should expats take part in this tradition and send their kids to school dressed in the requisite costumes?
Most people said yes, though throughout the course of the day, I learned there are Spanish families who disapprove of the whole business and refuse to participate. I’m sure if I understood all the nuances, I’d feel guilty about enjoying the day, so I’m glad the subtleties are beyond my Spanish.
We may even go drink from San Isidro’s well tomorrow.