It’s warm in Gibraltar this time of the year and the sun disappears late in the evening like all the other summer revellers. All through the square are different stalls – about 50 of them – serving various types of food. There’s the Moroccan stand with its meat skewers; the Argentinian stand with a mix of barbeque meat; the Indian stand with curries; the Hong Kong stand with dumplings; and so on.
Some is cooked right in front of your eyes, while some was clearly made in the kitchen of a local home earlier in the day. There are different levels of professionalism here – but that is certainly not a negative thing. It’s what makes Calentita such a special local event. There may be some fulltime chefs working at some of the stands but many of the people here are just making the meals they learned from their family for celebratory community occasions like this.
The focus of the Calentita festival is food but a large stage in the centre of the square hosts performances from local groups. There are the schoolgirls doing their choreographed dance routines, the flamenco club takes their turn, and then the singers blast out some impressive vocal ranges. Just like the culinary offerings, there is a mix of professionals, veteran amateurs, and newcomers. Again, it’s about the community and the cheers from the audience are not just for the talent but for the celebration of inclusion. The diverse cultures are represented in the range of performances but ultimately they are all Gibraltarian.
I get the sense that it’s important for the people here to be proud of what they have – for centuries they have lived with a constant threat of invasion and even now there is conflict over the ownership of the territory. But that’s politics and this is life. The residents of Gibraltar have always defended their land because it is theirs, not because a particular government has raised its flag overhead.
If you’re interested in reading more, check out Michael Turtle’s full story about Gibraltar’s Calentita Food Festival!
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