While Mexico prepares to open its big season in the interiors, that of Spain is winding down. Only one big fair, La Feria del Pilar, in Zaragoza, remains on the schedule and gets underway Oct. 10.
Every Spanish feria has its own distinct personality. That of El Pilar is religious oriented, but it still offers several days of bullfights, featuring the top names from throughout the world. It’s a tough ring. Cutting ears is difficult, at best.
The history of El Pilar is fascinating to religious historians, who claim that the Cathedral El Pilar was initiated by the first recorded appearance of the Virgin Mary, who was accompanied by angels, bearing a column. That column became the centerpiece of a magnificent cathedral, which would become the centerpiece of the Catholic religion in Spain. Every generation has added to constructing the cathedral, which is still being built.
During the Spanish Civil War, the leftist insurgents had overrun almost all of Spain. The main holdout was the Province of Aragón. Along the banks of the River Ebro, in Zaragoza, the religious strength of the people was holding their attackers at bay. Breaking that strength became a priority for those who were determined to conquer all of Spain.
So, on the morning of Aug. 3, 1936, a tri-motored bomber flew down the River Ebro. It dropped three bombs on the Cathedral El Pilar. Two went through the roof; a third landed in the sidewalk, knocking out four cobblestones, forming a perfect cross.
But, none of the three bombs exploded.
When examined, later, the bombs were found to be live. There was no logical reason why they had not detonated. The incident would come to be known as “The Miracle of El Pilar.”
The people of Zaragoza were incensed. Common citizens formed an attack force which invaded an enemy camp on the other side of the river. Although outnumbered and lacking sophisticated arms, the citizens defeated the insurgent troupe.
When news of the bombing of El Pilar reached the rest of Spain, the conquered people rebelled and defeated their invaders. Approximately, a year later, the war ended and Franco again marched into Madrid.
Thus, the Feria del Pilar celebrates the event with an annual feria that is replete with pilgrimages, parades, dancing, music, and of course, bullfights. In the Cathedral El Pilar, a piece of the original column, as well as two of the non-exploded bombs, are on display as a constant reminder to those who would dare attempt to threaten the religious strength of Spain and the Spanish people.
Was it really a miracle? Who knows? But, one thing is for certain. The Feria del Pilar is one of the highlights of every Spanish bullfight season.
So, if you’re wondering where your aficionado friends have disappeared in early October, look toward Zaragoza, which is located between Madrid and Barcelona. Chances are, they’ll be there, having the time of their lives.