A few hours from the beginning of one of the most important festivals of the city of Jerez de la Frontera, declared international turistic interest festival, I want to tell you a bit about the history of this great event.
Fairs hold in the city
For centuries, the city has been holding different fairs:
One of them took place in August, originally celebrated in the quarter of “La Merced”, being transferred then to “Saint Telmo beaches” (yes, your read well, formerly it was not necessary for the citizens to take the car and drive to the nearest beaches of El Puerto de Santa Maria to have a bath because the sea waters reached the city, specifically the current neighborhood of San Telmo, located at the south of the city)
The other was celebrated in May, in Caulina’s pasture, named “Hato de la Carne”, far from the city centre. This fair was the most important and over centuries and years has been developing to our current Horse Fair.
Jerez has always enjoyed a good reputation as a cattle breeder- Even today we can see good specimens of bulls, cows and certainly our famous horse, a horse that was cared for in the beautiful La Cartuja Monastery, therefore named Carthusian horse.
As I said, it was always the most relevant fair.
It was celebrated between the last days of August and the first of September, originally on San Telmo beaches, until the city mayor, Julio González Hontoria, inaugurated the park that bears his name in 1902, a name that still persists.
It is known that in the 19th Century it was the most important fair in lower Andalusia, whose purpose was the livestock sale and purchase.
In Caulina’s lands gathered thousands of cattle, reaching more than fifty thousand for sale in the last days of April and early May.
To welcome curious and merchants, they set up drinks and food stands, where there was singing and dancing too, since it was (and still is) customary to close businesses with joy and a good sherry wine glass.
The proximity to the railroad track from the place where the fair was hosted made it possible for the large public to comfortably attend the event by using special trains organized for the event.
A central park for the May fair
The distance of the cattle fair epicenter from the city centre was weighing more and more, so it was decided to think about a remedy.
they chose the area known as “Campo de Instrucción” and the proyect was commissioned to Francisco Hernández Rubio. This architect worked not only in the enclosure, but also designed several fixed “casetas” the fairground until the renovation of 1987.
The solemn inauguration of González Hontoria Park took place in September 1902, being this original blueprint the one which coincided with the Camino de Espera, the ancient road that crossed these lands.
Over time, as said before, the fairground went through renovations. The one performed in 1952 was to open the “Paseo Nuevo” that separated the fair from the the market of cattle area, and thus extended the “Paseo de las Palmeras.”
In the 60s, during the time when Miguel Primo de Rivera was the city mayor, they set warehouses using part of the park destined to the Cattle Fair to create a place to hold the “Mercado Nacional Permanente de Ganados”, a national cattle market place. These warehouses were demolished in order to set the buildings destined for “IFECA” an exhibition centre, restored in 1987.
This current year, 2023…
the Horse Fair begins today, on Saturday May 6th, until next Saturday May 13th.
The inauguration takes place tonight, at 10 pm, with the traditional lighting of one million three hundred thousand light bulbs, followed by fireworks and the opening of the total of 173 casetas, free entry with few exceptions.
Whether on foot or on horseback or sitting in one of its traditional horse carriages, strolling through the fair, living its atmosphere, singing, dancing and enjoy the gastronomy is an experience not to be missed.
If you come with the kids or you like adventure, the fun is guaranteed in the “cacharritos” (as the citizens name the amusement park)
As a curious fact, if you walk through its gardens, located to the right of the main entrance, you will see this bronze bust made in 1931 by the spanish sculptor Ramón Chaveli, dedicated to the city mayor Julio González Hontoria.
And if you need a versatile tour guide to show you the Horse Fair and Jerez city or even its surroundings, do not hesitate…