Introducing the Traída del Barro, the most amazing fiesta you've never heard of

Gran Canaria's home to many fun fiestas. Our man on the island, Matthew Hirtes, decided to visit one of the quirkier ones with his family, in Santa Brígida. La Atalaya's Traída del Barro has just celebrated its 23rd year and is held on the first Saturday of July each year.

La Atalaya's fiesta season

Fiestas del Barro

Be careful to pitch up at the right La Atalaya. That's Santa Brígida's La Atalaya rather than Santa María de Guía's. La Atalaya means watchtower in Spanish. And the hamlet's elevated setting offers stunning views of the surrounding area including not-so-little-old Las Palmas de Gran Canaria below.

The canarii, the Berber-descending people who occupied the island before the 15th-century Spanish Conquest, had already constructed cave houses here. And the new settlers copied them, to build more. All which still exist, give or take the odd modern extension.

July sees the Fiestas del Barro come to town. La Atalaya's has always been an area where potters have worked, indeed previously offering their pots in exchange for other craft products from artisans operating in the south-east and centre of the island. The Friday night before the Saturday we visit saw the kiln at the Centro Locero La Atayala transformed into a giant barbecue as locals enjoyed a meat feast.

Getting into the party spirit in La Atalaya

XXIII Traida del Barro partygoers

We arrive in La Atalaya around 12:00pm, the advertised start of the XXIII Traída del Barro. Parking our car opposite the church, we're directed down to the Camino a La Picota's Asociación de Vecinos, the Neighbours' Association, whose headquarters front the festivities. They're selling commemorative T-shirts at three Euros a pop.

There are also free Panama hats being held out, along with the odd complimentary bottle of rum. The DJ, based outside Bar Cafetin which dates back to 1948, is blasting out some impossible-not-to-dance-along-to-reggaeton. Which makes a change from the safe chart-bothering fare they tend to play at Carnaval.

There is such a thing as a free lunch in La Atalaya

XXIII Traida del Barro

Contrary to the old adage, partygoers form a mainly orderly queue to receive the free paella served from inside the Asociacion de Vecinos' base. This is street food at its finest with many returning outside to scoff at their leisure, the rice soaking up the booze to prevent partygoers from getting too drunk. For a more formal lunch, there are tables set up inside which our family take advantage of.

And the band play on

Vitamina Band Gáldar

The DJ gets a well-deserved break with the arrival of the Vitamina Band Gáldar. Their music is more old-school carnival, with plenty of brass. We follow the band up to the field above La Atalaya, the site of the day's main event, the actual Traída de Barro.

Mud, mud, glorious mud

Traida del Barro 

The Traída del Barro literally translates as the Bringing of the Mud. It was set up by the youth of the area when they established La Peña de Barro back in 1992. Essentially, it's a celebration of the area's tradition of producing earthenware.

Once we arrive at the field, we're greeted by the sight of two fire engines. After partygoers start to enter the "playing" area, they turn on the hoses. To turn the field into a mini Glastonbury with revellers wrestling each other to the ground and applying a free mud mask to anyone in their way. We leave soggy but upbeat, already planning a return next year.