This post is in English because if you understand Spanish you probably have already heard me telling this story and if you don’t, I think you are going to enjoy it. Or be completely horrified. I hope it is the first one. Really.
So tradition says in my home town of Salamanca, that such a day as today every year, Salamancans (although we prefer “charros”) will go in the morning to work or school but after lunch we will be on holiday just for the day. Years ago my parents would take me and my sister to meet my grandparents and other friends to go on a picnic to the countryside, eat Hornazo – a shortcrust-ish-like pie with all the good stuff from Salamanca such as chorizo, jamón, sirloin and pork belly in it- and have some outdoors fun. As I grew older I kept doing the same thing but this time with my friends adding also some alcohol to the mix. (Hi mum! Still can’t read English right?). In summary, a local holiday during which the whole city gets absolutely empty because everyone is partying and celebrating outside.
What do we celebrate? Well, that is the fun bit. Back in the XVI century, a young king Philip II came to Salamanca to get married. He was only sixteen years old but what he found here would leave a deep mark in his very catholic soul. By that time Salamanca had a university which had already been running for three centuries, making of it a true temple of knowledge with 8,000 students (take as a reference that Madrid at the time had only 11,000 inhabitants) who wanted as well to have some fun. Actually, to have a lot of fun. Because of this, the king found a city full of all kinds of taverns, brothels and “houses in which the sixth commandment was constantly questioned”, in such a way that “Salamanca was not only the first University of these kingdoms, the most known and old; but at the same time the biggest brothel in Europe, the Sodoma and Gommorrah from the west.”
“Salamanca was not only the first University of these kingdoms, the most known and old; but at the same time the biggest brothel in Europe, the Sodoma and Gommorrah from the west.”
Probably that is why, a shocked king ruled that during Lent and Easter, the prohibition to eat meat shall be respected in all its meanings. Because of that, and in order to prevent all kinds of lustful acts, all those women were expelled from the city and conducted to the opposite side of river Tormes when these days came.
The end to all this happened in the first Monday after Easter Monday – that is, today – in which all the students would cross the river in their boats to get the prostitutes back into the city, celebrating quite heavily in that very moment their return in a way that you can probably imagine by this moment. And because of that this Monday got to be known as lunes de aguas which literally means Monday of water or more simply Water Monday.
Yes, because of that funny story full of alcohol and prostitutes I have been going on a nice picnic with my friends and family every Water Monday I can remember.
P.S.: This is just my quick summary, but even being google translated I strongly recommend to have a look at the Lunes de aguas entry in the Wikipedia.