'La Sardina Encallada' ('The Stranded Sardine') in Murcia, Spain

Visitors to Murcia might be surprised to see a big fish showing its head and tail in the shallow waters of the Segura River near the Puente Viejo (Old Bridge). This sculpture is actually a tribute to a deeply rooted tradition in Murcia. 

The Entierro de la Sardina (Burial of the Sardine) is a ceremony that celebrates the end of Lent. Burials usually consist of a parade that parodies a funeral procession, and culminates with the burning of the symbolic figure. In this case, that figure is a sardine. In contrast to what occurs in other places in Spain, the Burial of the Sardine in Murcia is celebrated the week after Holy Week. It symbolizes the triumph of Don Carnal (Mr. Flesh) over Doña Cuaresma (Mrs. Lent).

This peculiar parade dates back to 1851, when a group of students devised the event to parody the prohibition of eating meat during Lent. Over time, the ceremony has grown into a spectacle that draws visitors from all over the world.

The Murcia Sardinera Association, which organizes the annual event, urged the city council to build a monument to the fish because of its importance to the city. In April 2007, this giant sardine, called La Sardina Encallada (The Stranded Sardine), was placed in the waters of the Segura River. Made by the sculptor Miguel Llamas, the big bronze fish measures 25 meters long and weighs approximately 10 tons and was designed to spit water from its mouth. At night, the stream would be illuminated with colored lights.

At least, that was the plan. For much of the time it has been in the river, the fish wasn’t spitting any water at all, because the muddy waters blocked the mechanism pumping the water. In May 2023, that mechanism was repaired, and the sardine spouted water for the first time in a decade.

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