Our Trip To Cariñena – September 2017

In September 2017 Tammy and I traveled to Cariñena for La Fiesta de la Vendimia, completing the round trip from Cariñena, to Havana, to New York, and back to Cariñena in only 242 years!

In December 2016 I received copies of baptism records for Jose Ramon Velez Herrera, our famous Cuban poet bisabuelo, and his cousin. In the details of the baptism certificate I learned that Roque Velez was his grandfather and that he came from Cariñena. Jackpot!  This trip had three purposes. First, I wanted to find proof that Roque Velez had indeed come from Cariñena. Second, build upon that foundation and find out how far back I trace our Velez family. Third, experience the town.

Each September there are *two* related festivals for La Vendimia. One is the Fiesta de la Vendimia de Cariñena run by the wine industry and it’s usually a two-day weekend kind of event. Think wine, wine, and more wine (they fill the fountain “La Fuente de la Mora” in the town square with red wine).

The second is a week-long religious festival for Santo Cristo de Santiago. This festival runs almost all day and all night every day of the week for 7 days. Each day brings parades, music, bullfights, bulls running up and down the streets, food, and performances. If you’re planning to go see Cariñena for these festivals, be certain you’ve sorted out which is which so you’re not disappointed.

Before we traveled, I researched the church and sent the mandatory letter to the Archbishop of Zaragoza requesting permission to access the archives which was approved in hours by email.


Tammy and I opted for the week-long festival and I quickly booked Casa Pallarés on Airbnb run by Ana Cristina. This turned out to be the most important, and best, decision we made for this trip.  Ana Cristina was very responsive to emailed questions in the weeks prior to our arrival.  She emailed me the fiesta program and gave me advice on visiting the church. Her apartment was right on Calle Mayor, a one minute walk south of Plaza España, where the city hall and fountain are located. Lesson: having a caring human being on the ground at your  destination makes for a fantastic trip to a new destination far from home.

We flew in to Barcelona, rented a car from Enterprise, and we were on the highway for the 3 hour drive to Cariñena. Ana Cristina met us in town and showed us to her beautiful 4 bedroom apartment.

The balcony gave us a safe place to watch the “toro en fuego” events where the pissed-off bull, adorned in a flaming headset, chases the partying crowd at 2AM.

The trip went quickly and it met all three objectives:


Havana baptism record for Ramon:

Cariñena baptism record for Roque:



If you’d like details on visiting Cariñena, drop me a note.