These are towns where the heavenly tastes and aromas of ancient sherries and manzanillas blend with the sights of impressive bodegas and the heart-touching, mysterious and hipnotic broken beat of Flamenco music.
Both Sherry and Flamenco originated from South West Andalusia and they have gloriously co-existed there for centuries, giving the area a unique charm.
This common geographical background is related to the beauty, fertility and gorgeous climate that have attracted so many cultures to South West Andalucia throughout history. Factors that have always enabled a very prosperous wine production and farming in the area too.
If we add the renown kindness and openness of Southwestern Andalusians to this, we'll have the reason that made the gypsies who first arrived to this part of the world switch from a nomadic lifestyle to a sedentary one, until settling down here completely sometime between the 15th and 17th centuries.
Jerez, El Puerto and Sanlúcar saw the first stable gypsy communities in Spain, along with other towns in the provinces of Cádiz and Seville. These first Andalusian gypsies engaged in professions such as blacksmithery, butchery and landwork and exercised a continuous interaction with many of the other towns' inhabitants. This gradually resulted in the development of the first forms of flamenco: slow fusions of the ancient multicultural musical heritage of Southern Spain with the original gypsy rhythms and musical roots.
In the case of Jerez, these communities mainly settled down in two specific areas outside the city walls: the quarters of San Miguel and Santiago. It was in these quarters where they found a diverse mixture of welcoming people, formed by minorities whose place in the social scheme inside the city ramparts was unclear.
San Miguel, located outside the South-East end of the city, had a more urban character and concentrated an important presence of city workers. It was in this quarter where many gypsies made a living as blacksmiths and butchers. The quarter of Santiago, located in the North-West end of the city and facing the vineyards between Jerez and Sanlúcar, was the place where gypsy newcomers settled down as landworkers.
These different lifestyles generated a plural, unique and extremely diverse flamenco scene in Jerez. With the passing of time, its powerful magic spreaded out from San Miguel and Santiago towards the rest of the city and ended up trespassing social and physical barriers, captivating even the wealthiest landlords and sherry merchants. Since then, Jerez has been known as probably the most vibrant and active city in the world in terms of Flamenco music.
For the past 19 years, Jerez has celebrated a renown Flamenco festival that attracts thousands of aficionados and professionals from all over the world. The festival, which lasts for two weeks, has a main program consisting of first-class flamenco shows across various selected venues and of specific flamenco courses for all levels. Additionally, there is a complementary program featuring smaller shows of emerging talents, conferences, talks, exhibitions, documentaries and culinary activities.
Jerez Flamenco festival is an amazing opportunity to immerse yourself in the city and to experience the magnificence of its music, through the festival program. Additionally, there're many unofficial happenings in Jerez during the festival time: when the programmed activities finish, the music keeps going in bars, taverns and some clandestine venues...
Follow the sound of Sherry and come to Jerez Flamenco festival, taking place in February every year.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of El Consejo Regulador.
10 February 2018