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Les Falles: Catalan politicians on fire—literally

València’s celebration of all things pyrotechnic features Trump, Putin, Puigdemont and Rajoy as sculptures to be set on fire on Monday

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16 March 2018 01:44 PM

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ACN | València

Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin and Nicolás Maduro—in less than a week, they will all be reduced to ashes. This year’s edition of Les Falles, València’s colossal celebration of all things pyrotechnic, features some of the world’s most well-known leaders as sculptures to be burned down next Monday. They are not alone: Catalan independence leaders will be set on fire too, as well as the Spanish king and president Mariano Rajoy.

Spain’s third largest city is also home to one of its greatest festivities. Valencians honor their patron saint San José in a week-long celebration that culminates on March 19 with the burning of giant figures made out of wood and inflammable materials.

The sculptures, on display in the city's streets, serve as a reminder of the people that made an impact throughout the year. As Catalonia posed an unprecedented challenge to Spain with a referendum and a declaration of independence last October, it comes as no surprise that several local groups decided to feature some of the most prominent pro-independence leaders in their falles. (Falles is both the name of the celebration and the name given to the sculptures.)

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Only one falla gets pardoned, thus saving it from the flames. This year’s chosen one is named “The search for El Dorado.” According to its author, it features pro-independence politicians as members of an enterprise to find “the promised land” —just like Spanish conquistadors did centuries ago in their pursuit of the golden Mecca.

“The search for El Dorado” includes the deposed Catalan president currently in Belgium, Carles Puigdemont, as well as the jailed vice president, Oriol Junqueras. Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, two civil society leaders imprisoned since October 16, are also represented in the falla.

In total, there are more than 700 falles. Other Catalan leaders on display include Anna Gabriel, seeking refuge from the Spanish justice in Switzerland, and the former police chief Josep Lluís Trapero.

The king Felipe VI appears leading a herd of sheep with the Spanish Constitution in his hand—one of them tries to run away from the group wearing a Catalan barretina hat and an independence flag.

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  • A Valencian falla featuring the Catalan deposed president Carles Puigdemont (by José Soler)

  • A Valencian falla featuring the Catalan deposed president Carles Puigdemont (by José Soler)