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The history of flamenco is rich with passion, treason, war, occupation, gypsies, Muslim culture and Spanish defiance. The stories, the songs and the passion of the dance reflect much of their past and many songs and dances have been modernized without losing any of their meaning or intensity.
The renown flamenco dress is a combination of gypsy garb, Muslim attire and traditional pieces that reflect Spanish culture. Black and white shawls with fringes, black hats, hair pins known as peinetas and bolero-style jackets resembling bullfighting outfits are part of the typical Flamenco dress.
The dancers' heels and castanets keep time with the guitar player and face competitor challenges deserving of frantic applause by an enthusiastic public. The shawl, the fan and the gestures all speak of love, passion and obsessions that reveal secret desires enhanced by the tempo of the guitar and the double-entendre of some the songs.
The dances observed and appreciated by the tourists are traditional and sanitized for all audiences, but the ones displayed in local taverns and more private settings ooze of sensuality and tell of stories long suppressed by former dictator Francisco Franco and dating back to rituals hundreds of years old.
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The city of San Fermin is internationally known for the running of the bulls every year on July 7th. The men dress in white shirts and long white pants and adorn their neck and waist with red scarfs. Stores throughout the city sell these outfits for anyone who cares to join.
Women are not encouraged to run with the bulls since the running of the bulls is considered a male activity, but if a female tourist is inclined to run with the bulls, she is not discouraged and is expected to take care of herself during the frantic race to outrun the bulls through the cobble-stone streets.
Additional festivities include parades honoring the city's saint and a display that includes giants with large heads and women are encouraged to wear white skirts or pants to blend in with the rest of the celebrants. Over 2 million people are attracted to the festivities every year creating a much-needed economic boom to the region.
The white clothing recommendations include items that are easy to wash and no one minds if they become permanently stained with the popular red Sangria. Open sandals should be avoided since throughout the festivities broken glass will find its way in just about every street.
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The most commonly known is the bullfighter's outfit that tends to be as closely fitted to the body as possible to make it difficult for the bull's horns to penetrate the material and drag the bullfighter to a certain death. The colors of the outfit tend to be representative of the colors in the Spanish flag as well as regional references.
Bullfighters achieve celebrity status among bullfight aficionados and the better known and better paid, the more elaborate the outfits, especially when the fights will be televised to millions of spectators and the purse prize is unusually high.
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Picadore and Horse
The Picador sits on the horse in order to assist the bullfighter by tiring out the bull, inducing lethal injuries and doing it with elegance and grace as he displays his equestrian abilities.
The horse also wears traditional garb that is designed to keep the horse safe from injury and in many cases, oblivious to the impending threat of the bull's horns and fury.
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The most commonly known costumes have been described here, but there are many variations in traditional costumes across the country that vary by region and are only worn during public festivities that include dances at public squares.
The participants in government sponsored plays and artistic demonstrations tend to be rich in design and authentic period pieces. The designs tend to be colorful and the embroidery and ribbons in each outfit represent the colors of the city or a significant historical event.
The women's headdress is adorned with veils, mantillas or scarfs that are traditional representations of eras gone by. The men's attires are also historical representations that tend to complement the women's outfits and the time period they represent.
Footwear is as important as the rest of the outfit and, in many cases, it resembles ballet slippers or simple enclosed sandals made of jute or other natural materials traditionally worn by sheep herders and peasants in the past. The traditional clothing in Spain is as varied as the history of its many regions and the significance of the festivities.