As the closest to the Cervantes’ baptism day—October 9th—the month is dedicated to the writer in Alcalá. Plenty of cultural events are organized, roads and historical city center turned into a huge Golden Age market, prizes of Cuidad de Alcalá and Cervantes Chico are awarded, old and second book fair is celebrated, theatre and music are found in every corner, Cervantes Gourmet Days…
In October, Alcalá is full of literature, leisure, art and gastronomy dedicated to the father of the modern novel and his worldwide work, Don Quixote. In those dates, wherever you go, you will find acts in which you can take part and celebrate, always around the figure of Miguel de Cervantes.
Parade of Cervantes’ Baptism Certificate
Cervantes’ Week of Alcalá is officially one of the Fiesta de Interés Turístico Regional de la Comunidad de Madrid [Festivity considered to be of regional tourist interest], and its main acts are celebrated on October 9th, commemorating the date, back in 1547, when Miguel de Cervantes was baptized in the font today placed into Oidor Chapel.
The majority of the acts take place that day, but a bunch of other activities is distributed among the next week, and even some dates further on in October. At the same time, dozens of activities related to music, theatre, literature and history are held, such as the giant Don Quixote’s Mediaeval Market, taking two kilometers of the historical city center, with its stands, vendors and artisans dress in Golden Age period style; a market that already is one of the biggest of these characteristics in the whole Europe.
Cervantes’ Week starts the same day 9th, in the morning, with the public parade of the baptism certificate of the distinguished writer Miguel de Cervantes. The parade moves from the City Council—where the certificate is extremely carefully preserved during the year—to the Interpretation Center “Los Universos de Cervantes”, into Oidor Chapel, where it could be seen only until 14 p.m. It is one of the most valuable documents of the city and this is the only moment of the year when you will be able to look freely at this so important document.
Don Quixote’s Popular Reading
After the official parade, authorities and public in general who desire so, may approach to Corral de Comedias, one of the oldest of Europe, where the popular reading of Miguel de Cervantes’ masterpiece, Don Quixote , is given. From the mayor to the university president, going through all kind of representatives of the economic, culture, social, neighboring and political life of the city take turns to read or recite small fragments of the novel of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
Prizes for Eduardo Punset, Isabel Allende…
During the afternoon of October 9th, within Teatro Salón Cervantes, the Premios anuales Ciudad de Alcalá awards ceremony takes place. Dedicated to novel, poetry, painting, historical investigation, photography and journalism, the prizes have been celebrated for more than 40 editions. Besides, two honorary prizes are awarded to personalities, entities or projects that stand out within the field of Architecture and World Heritage.
The most distinguished prize was created fifteen years ago, when the City Council of Alcalá proposed the prize Ciudad de Alcalá de las Artes y las Letras [City of Alcalá of Arts and Letters], with the aim of distinguish a transcendent person within the sphere of creation. Artist and creators have won this prize, such as Fernando Fernán Gómez; the dramatist and actor Adolfo Marsillach; Ana María Matute, awarded also with Cervantes’ prize; the painter Antonio López; the member of the Royal Spanish Academy Fernando Lázaro Carreter; the dramatist Francisco Nieva; the writer Isabel Allende; the actor José Luis Gómez; the cartoonist Antonio Mingote; the lyric singer Ainhoa Arteta; or the scientific proponent Eduardo Punset, who won it in 2012.
Usually, the last winner of the prize gives a lecture or speech during Cervantes’ Week in the same place, in front of the always crowded Teatro Salón Cervantes. In the same place, the prize Cervantes Chico is also presented, to which you may attend if you wish, and where the authors of literature for children and young adults are awarded—a highly relevant honor in Spain, with the participation of notable personalities such as the Princess Letiziain 2012.
The 24th of October, in the same Teatro Salón Cervantes, you may attend to the celebration of the Library Day, in which writers, editors and librarians take part. This initiative was promoted by the Asociación Española de Amigos del Libro Infantil y Juvenil [Spanish Association of Friends of Children and Young Adults Books] to transmit to public opinion the importance of libraries as a place of easy access to culture in the city.
Interludes, passacaglias and bands
During Cervantes’ Week a great number of theatre performances are held. Based on the texts and interludes of Miguel de Cervantes, it is a wonderful occasion to see a dramatized work, usually a short one, from the author native of Alcalá—equivalent to Shakespeare within the Spanish-speaking world. Works are represented in Corral de Comedias—dating back from seventeenth century—in plaza de Cervantes, into plaza de Cervantes o en la Cervantes Birthplace Museum , or even in several squares and corners of historical city center, such as plaza del Palacio Arzobispal, Santos Niños, plaza de los Irlandeses, calle Mayor…
While on the subject, there are also passacaglias in which participate group of actors representing short stories in a road show through several streets and squares, within the historical center where Don Quixote’s Mediaeval Market is allocated.
Regarding music, you may attend to Renaissance and Baroque music concerts in cozy places such as plaza de las Bernardas; the meeting of municipal bands, celebrated for more than ten years; or the choral one, held in emblematical places such as Regional Archaeological Museum.
Gourmet Days and Tapas awarded with Michelin Stars
Since fifteen years ago, during the previous days of Cervantes’ Week, Gourmet Days are celebrated. Around twenty restaurants of the city participate in this event, they offer fixed price menus allowing visitors to taste several plates inspired in characters of Cervantes novels and Don Quixote’s; or in stews and dishes quoted in the novel and other books of the notable writer, such as crunchy fried breadcrumbs, pie of sugar coated partridge with thyme, or tiznao cod [cooked with vegetables in a cassole].
You may also attend—in the backyard of the old university student hostelry, today’s Hostería del Estudiante—to the meeting of famous cooks—with the National Gastronomy Prize to their credit on more than one occasion, or some Michelin star in their career—delivering speeches and preparing in person tapas and recipes based on both Don Quixote period cooking and Castilla La-Mancha cuisine that feed the Ingenious Gentleman.
Old and Secondhand Book Fair
As finishing touch for Cervantes’ month, at the end of October and first days of November, it is celebrated, since almost thirty years by now, the Old and Secondhand Book Fair . The fair has traditionally been held in plaza de los Santos Niños, although in 2012, it was moved to plaza de Cervantes, as it happened in the old days.
The event is organized by the City Council and the booksellers association “La Galatea”, and there, in its stands, you will find countless secondhand books at good price, as well as unlisted editions and old copies of great value and interest.