The Jaleo: Menorca’s Fiesta Highlight
If you like horses, noise and excitement, then joining in with the atmosphere of the ‘Jaleo’ at one of Menorca’s fiestas, which take place around the island during the summer months, is a must. The official fiesta season runs from the end of June, starting with the famous Fiesta de Sant Joan in Ciutadella, and ends in early September with the Fiesta de Gràcia in Maó. Although religious in origin, held in honour of each town or villages’s patron saint, today the fiestas are a good excuse to have fun and party for a couple of days. Not wanting to miss out, Cala’n Porter also holds its own fiesta in mid September which has become a very popular event, with fiesta horses and the ‘Jaleo’on the beach. For more information about Menorca’s Fiestas, click here.
The highlight of each fiesta is without doubt the ‘Jaleo’ which literally translated means ‘commotion’ or ‘pandemonium’. The beautiful Menorcan horses adorned with ribbons and rosettes, together with their riders dressed in black tail coats and white riding breeches, parade through the streets ending up at the main square. Amidst the deafening shouts and cheers from the lively crowd they show off their equestrian skills in front of the local dignitaries by making their horses rear up onto their hind legs (known as the ‘bot’) and even jump in time to the traditional Jaleo music, played by the local brass band. The horses are encouraged to literally walk on two legs for as long as possible as fearless locals serge forward to try and touch the horses’ hearts for good luck.
The cavalcade of ‘caixers’ (horse riders), usually tours the town or village three times, giving those people who would rather avoid the main crowds ample opportunity to see the horses at close range as they make their way around the quieter streets, all of which have been covered in sand. Each fiesta usually has two ‘Jaleos’, one on the first evening and the second in the afternoon the following day, the actual saint’s day, during which each rider’s performance is rewarded with the presentation of a triumphal green cane with a silver spoon tied to it. Traditional horse races often follow, which have to be seen to be believed as the horses charge two by two down the allocated road lined with cheering locals.
The ‘Jaleo’ is a spectacle that it not seen anywhere else in the world and the fiesta atmosphere is infectious, fueled by the traditional fiesta drink of ‘pomada’ (gin and lemonade), but it should be noted that this fiesta highlight is crowded, noisy and not suitable for very young children or the infirm.