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It is not the oldest in the country but the Córdoba Fair is old nonetheless. It was a privilege  awarded by king Sancho IV in 1322, and it gave the city permission to hold two annual fairs: “the first one on White Sunday or Pentecost (the 21st of May) and a second one the 8th of September where, traditionally, farmers and nearby villagers gather to buy and sell cattle and goods from all over the country so that they can fulfill their contracts.”

In other words, both fairs presented a sort of a flea market where all kinds of goods were purchased and sold. However, this fairs attracted so many people –a great deal of them were more than willing to make the most of the festivities and leave their sorrows elsewhere for a while– that around the XVIIIth century the fair came very close of being prohibited on account of the debaucheries taking place there.

The Córdoba Fair was back then set where nowadays the wealthy neighborhood of El Brillante stands. At the time it used to be a nice green area where orchards would climb up the mountain and hide away the party from conspicuous eyes. 

The debauchery was taking place all over Spain for that matter, but it was particularly outrageous in Córdoba. In the year 1789 the Town Hall received a letter from the Council of Castile requiring them to send a report of the Fairs that were taking place in the city. The town councilor, José Cebrián, whose daughters were apparently very fond of the festivities, wrote a crushing report describing how the fairs had turn into “Sodom and Gomorrah”, greatly due to a location that contributed to hide the debauchery. So alarming was the report that the Council of Castile replied immediately.

The Fair was officially suspended the 1st of August of 1789 “until a solution is reached to avoid the acts of debauchery and the privileges awarded to hold the fairs are found”. However, the protests got so big that the Town Council had to mend their decision and then, the 16th of April of 1790, request that the fairs continue as they used to on account of how important they were to farmers.

The official permission arrived the 18th of May, just in time to, with great celerity, organize the event. Despite the restoration of the Fair, the permission introduced many changes regarding how the fair had to be conducted. From that point on, the stands would close no later than 10 pm; and also, and most importantly, in order to better oversee the fairs the location had to be changed.

The fairs were definitely moved in 1792. The old mountainous area was abandoned in favor of a nearby plain better suited to hold cattle, as Pascual Ruiz, the town councilor, explained: “by the grace of Royal privilege the public fair arranged for Pentecost, or the second coming of the Holy Ghost, will be held in the Campo de la Victoria (Triumph Field) as it is wide and big enough for the gathering of cattle of all kinds, the stores and other goods, as well as for the leisure of the people.

There the fair remained still for two centuries up until 1994, when it was again moved, this time to the riverbanks of the Guadalquivir river and where it has already turned  25 years of age. So, whenever someone rages against the debaucheries of today’s youth we should know better than criticize what our great grand parents and our grand parents and our own parents even ourselves have enjoyed during the Fair of May.

Now for the final and closing touch I brought a beautiful program original from the Fair of 1910 so you can appreciate the degree in which human uses and festivities have changed through time.

Happy Fair to all of you!

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