Las Fiestas de San Mateo are the biggest event of the year in Oviedo, taking place over the course of nearly two weeks. Oviedo has celebrated the saint’s feast day for over a millenium, since the days of Alfonso II in the 9th century.
What exactly comprises the festival of San Mateo? It’s a question which we’ve been posing to everyone we meet, and which no one is able to satisfactorily answer. There’s the Día de América on the 19th, which is a parade to honor the cultures and people of the New World. And there are fireworks on the 21st, the día grande of the festival. But concentrating on individual events isn’t the best way to think about San Mateo. Basically, the whole city becomes a huge party zone. San Mateo is simply a monstrously long fiesta.
In every plaza of the old town, on every corner and along every street, open air bars sell caipirinhas and mojitos. Every night, there are jazz concerts in the Plaza de Paraguas, rock concerts in the Plaza Feijoo, and big performances of theater, comedy, music and more in the Plaza de la Catedral. Makeshift party tents called chiringuitos are set up all over the place, disturbing neighbors with dancing that lasts until 4am. The city park, the Campo de San Francisco, converts into a massive kids’ playground. Everyone goes out, and the streets are packed with both young and old people having a good time.
Though there’s not much to distinguish San Mateo from other festivals around the world, it’s one of the few times in the year when noble Oviedo lets its hair loose, and reveals an exuberant side to the city normally kept under wraps.