November 12, 2011

In Valencia: El pardal i la cotorra

So I was going to submit this photo to a fun photo contest, "looking up," for a (great) local Valencian expat magazine, InVLC, but I got around to it _way_ after the deadline. To make the most of it, though, I thought I'd post it here.

Looking up: On the left, the parrot that is perched above Valencia's Mercat Central,
on the right, Saint John's bird alighted on the Iglesia de los Santos Juanes next to the market

Pictured here is the (generic) bird, "el pardal de San Joan," of the Iglesia de los Santos Juanes and the parrot, "la cotorra del Mercat," over the Mercat Central de València. The two birds, perched within view of each other, have long been the subjects of local legends and playful stories. The church bird was long ago a symbol of economic good fortune to visitors who arrived to the city and spotted it from the steps of la Lonja. [Translator's note: pardal in Catalan can actually mean gorrión or sparrow, but my wife informs me that in Valencia pardal is used to refer to a generic bird. Since the castellano name is "el pájaro de San Juan," I'll default to the generic. To any biblical scholars out there, do you know what kind of bird was St. John's?] The parrot was the namesake of a popular Valencian music journal, La cotorra del Mercat, published by Leopoldo Magenti Chelvi in the 1940s; and in the 1990s the Market used a cartoon parrot as the protagonist of its educational materials for Valencian children who visited the market for school field trips.

There is nothing more adorable than watching kids on their field trip to the Mercat Central...
passing along to them the local knowledge and appreciation for L'Horta de València.

One such recurring story is that the two birds talk with each other, la cotorra (parrot) symbolizing the worldly and the mundane life of the Market, and also its chatty gossip (chismes y cotilleos), while el pardal (bird, sparrow) represents the more spiritual world of the church and higher ideals. These two conceptions of life, "el pardal i la cotorra," wordly and other-wordly, are thus locked in a constant imaginary argument about the many busy people and happenings below.

The gargoyles of La Lonja
There really are just so many interesting features of Valencia, thousands of such colorful stories attached to the City's many impressive institutions and local attractions, it's hard to tell them all. Just to give you an idea, these two birds also share the local terrain "above" with a dozen gargoyles, perched on la Lonja de la Seda, a.k.a. Silk Market, opposite the Mercat Central. (Indeed, some add a flourish to stories about the two birds by mentioning their trepidation for these neighboring denizens.)

I promise I'll get around to writing more about the culture of and things to do in Valencia, which is easily the most under-appreciated city in Spain.

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