May in Cordoba is a clear example of the Andalusian spirit. From the moment a rose opens up, releasing all its perfume that inundates the whole city, Cordoba puts on the "fair dress" making an emphasis on the stimulating spring time, leaving behind the "every day mood". May installs itself all over the town: in its crosses wrapped in flowers, in the pots that decorate, and almost cover, walls and floors of Cordoba's public and private courtyards, in the squares all over the city, in the noisy Fair's "Casetas" (small portable places where people can dance, sing, eat and drink, play the guitar, etc.) and in the bull rings.
Local people really enjoy this month and its festivities, since its the end of the school year and has the "perfect weather" just before the hot summer comes, when local people will do nothing but try and fight the high temperatures. But while in May, when the smell of the "Azahar" (orange blossom) is in the air, Cordoba will be Andalusia's greatest Lady, philosophical and always singing, giving the best of herself dressed with her best gown.
The May's "Crosses" Competition is the starting signal in the festive bedlam of this month. Remembrance of ancient religious customs, the crosses are raised, wrapped up in flowers, in the squares, lanes and open spaces, adorned with Spring's treasures, plants and flowers which are plentiful in May, as well as with "Manila" shawls, bedspreads of many colours and the know how of the people. Associations of Neighbours and "Peñas" (Groups) are in charge of transforming Cordoba in a film stage and fill the streets with joy and "fiesta".
The itinerary to visit the "Crosses" is usually done in the evening, when Cordoba is really magical and wine is a friend that changes solitude into songs and dances. A guitar plays in any corner, and songs transform sadness into Art.
The Pilgrimages at Cordoba have their own name: "Santo Domingo" (Saint Domingo) and "Linares". The first one is a song, written and composed by "Ramón Medina" that indicates the date of this celebration: 'Caminito de Santo Domingo te vi una mañana florida de Abril...'. "Santo Domingo", by Scala Coeli, is a Dominican friar's convent, 6 kilometers from the town, and the Saint that gives its name and the anniversary remembers San Álvaro de Córdoba. "Linares's" sanctuary, where the other pilgrimage is celebrated on the first day of May, is located on the outskirts of the town and is related to Cordoba's conquest under the king "San Fernando". The Virgin of "Linares" is, according to the legend, the effigy that the King carried on the back of his horse when he conquered Cordoba. The "Perol Cordobés" is the typical food at both pilgrimages.
Once the "Crosses Competition" has finished, the Cordoba's Courtyard Festival begins, being the second Festivity of May in Cordoba, where hospitality is the word. Those owners who have interior courtyards in their houses, embellish them up to the top with flowers and plants, pots and fountains, white walls and stone floors, and open their doors for everybody to walk in and be delighted and amazed with the beauty, the colours and the smells of these "patios". These houses are distributed all over the city, such as the "San Agustín" district, "San Lorenzo", "La Judería" (the Jewish Quarter) or the "San Basilio" neighbourhood. Near to these "patios", in squares and streets, the Town Hall organizes shows and festivals, where singing and dancing "Sevillanas" (typical southern Spain's songs) help to bear the night temperatures of May, since from here onwards the days are really hot.
The "Feria de Nuestra Señora de la Salud" (Cordoba's Fair) starts towards the end of May, and is celebrated in honour to the Virgin that gives name to this fair, closing down this joyful month in Cordoba. This Fair follows the Andalusian type of Fair, with "casetas" (small portable places where people can dance, sing, eat and drink, play the guitar, etc.), the central walk and "Hell's street". The difference between Cordoba's Fair and others of the rest of Andalusia, is that here the "casetas" are opened to everybody. The horses walk, the "faralaes" dresses (typical dress from Andalusia), the "sevillanas" and the wine, are common ingredients of all the Fairs in the South of Spain, although they have all lost their real origin, based on livestock transactions, which is nowadays done in the outskirts of town.
Legend says that while Colon was discovering America, Cordoba was discovering bullfighting. The first bullfight took place in 1492 at the Palace of the Christian Kings (el Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos), as an amusement for the son of the Catholic King, the Prince Don Juan. Following that Taurine tradition, the "Califas" bullring offers attractive bullfights for the Fair of May mainly. To the renowned bullfighters, such as "Lagartijo", "Guerrita", "Machaquito", "Manolete" or "El Cordobés", we now add two young bullfighter's names of the '90s: "Finito" and "Chiquilín".
One of the shows that best defines Cordoba's idiosyncrasy and personality is the National Competition of "Flamenco" Art. It is celebrated every three years, and brings up first class figures of the "Flamenco" singing, dancing and guitar playing. The "Gran Teatro" (Great Theatre) is also a symbol of the cultural enrichment of Cordoba.
It is at this Theatre, where the "Guitar Festival" takes place every year, with shows not only of "Flamenco" but also Opera. The "Axerquía" Theatre, another of the towns enclosures for summer evenings, completes the offer of public spaces in Cordoba, joining sometimes with the Gardens of the Alcazar, where the sounds of guitars takes you close to ecstasy.