Ninots (cardboard figurines) burn as one installation of the Fallas festival is set ablaze in Valencia, Spain, on September 5, 2021. The Fallas, featuring a parade of floats and giant cardboard sculptures, was canceled in 2020 and was postponed from March to September this year, because of the pandemic. Photo credit: Jose Jordan / AFP / Getty
Every local talks about Fallas in Valencia, where I currently live. They either love it and celebrate, or they hate it and leave the city when it’s happening. I can understand and respect tradition, but it’s difficult to reconcile why beautiful sculptures and art go up in flames and billowing smoke, in celebration, while the world suffocates. For many locals, it’s a meaningful tradition and important economic driver in the region. While I don’t love parts of this celebration, I’m grateful that travel and cultural immersion has allowed me to think critically, and develop a sense of acceptance and tolerance.