A major part of Fallas is its competitions. Paella championships, sports tournaments, fallera pageants, and of course the selection of the year’s best monuments. But the most dazzling battle takes place on the streets of Ruzafa… or rather, above them. Every year, a few casales compete to erect the city’s most mind-blowing streetlights.
The monuments of Fallas are incredible, and the Cremà is unforgettable, but for me, nothing is so breathtaking as watching the streetlights of Ruzafa being switched on. Millions of sparkling LEDs arranged in intricate constellations bathe the neighborhood in light. Anyone with the misfortune of living on one of the illuminated streets won’t get much sleep, but their sacrifice is appreciated by the rest of us.
This year, four commissions participated in the competition, but the two which traditionally fight for first place are Sueca-Literato Azorín and Cuba-Literato Azorín: rivals situated on streets parallel to each other. We caught the opening show of Sueca-Literato Azorín, whose illumination was based on the legend of Icarus, and then walked over to Cuba, who looked to the film Stargate for inspiration. Sueca-Literato Azorín would later be declared the winner of 2015, but we felt that it could have gone either way.
Every night during Fallas, the street lights are turned on after an elaborate opening number. Set to music, the lights flash up and down the street, changing color and pattern with the beat. The companies behind most of the setups come from Italy, and they sure know their craft. I imagine teams of Italian Clark Griswolds running around Ruzafa like madmen, challenging each other to ever-crazier heights.
It bears mentioning that, during Fallas, street lights are common all over Valencia. Almost every street in the city is illuminated (thankfully, most commissions have switched to more Earth-friendly LEDs). Even the most modest light displays can be lovely; without overwhelming you, they add a festive touch to the city. But once in a while, being overwhelmed is fun. So when you’re in the mood to be astonished, head to Ruzafa.