SAN SEBASTIAN: kicked off its year as the European Capital of Culture Saturday with a concert on the beach as the northern Spanish city pushes a banner of peace years after being hit by waves of violence.
The traditional “tamborrada”, a drum festival originating in the early 19th century that is held in the city every January, took place on San Sebastien’s beach as thousands of men, women and children watched, while an outdoor show created by Cirque du Soleil choreographer Hansel Cereza followed at night.
With its giant crescent-shaped bay, green, hilly surroundings and the countless tapas and Michelin-starred restaurants that fill its streets, the picturesque city on Spain’s northern coast appears far removed from the extremist violence afflicting parts of the world.
But San Sebastian hides a dark past, hit as it was by wave upon wave of killings, bombings, kidnappings and terror for more than four decades until separatist group ETA declared an end to its campaign for an independent Basque homeland in 2011.
Accordingly, festivities will take place under the banner of “peace” in the 186,000-strong city known for its annual film festival.
The city plans to use its 2016 status — which it shares this year with Poland’s Wroclaw — to “convert culture into a tool to live together in harmony” across Europe and further heal the wounds of a tragic past, Mayor Eneko Goia has said.
San Sebastian will also host a major art exhibition on the theme of war and peace with works from Spain’s Goya, Picasso or France’s Le Corbusier.
Politics aside, though, other lighter themes will also be on show, such as the Basque country’s world-famous gastronomy.
Throughout the year for instance, top local chefs will host counterparts from other European countries to create a fusion of their two cuisines.