Las Hogueras: Festival of San Juan

By Sam Sadler

Festival of San Juan statues

How incredible is this statue made entirely of paper and wood? During our last week in Alicante, these gigantic hogueras (Spanish for “bonfires”) appeared in the streets almost overnight, blocking major roadways and decorating the city. 

Each neighborhood spent an entire year creating controversial statues that pointedly embellish current political and cultural issues. 

For an entire week, the Festival of San Juan dominated Alicante with music from 10 a.m. to 4 a.m. and ear-shattering fireworks every day. 

After a tense competition, in which this particular hoguera won the best overall prize, firemen proceed to systematically ignite each hoguera. From statue to statue, the entire city rushes to watch beautiful sculptures turn to mute ashes. 

I’ve never before seen or heard of such a festival, but participating in the excitement revealed to me the degree by which I had adopted the culture through the immersive Duke in Alicante program. 

My experience demonstrates that, in order to truly understand a culture, you must commit yourself completely, becoming part of that which may baffle you. 

Thank you, Duke, for encouraging me to forsake my ignorance and providing me with this unbelievable opportunity to do so!


Sam Sadler 
Duke Intensive Spanish in Alicante
Summer 2016