The Welsh communities of the Costa del Sol, along with those in the rest of the world, will be celebrating their annual feast day to mark the death of Saint David on Friday (today). Along with the singing of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau - the country's national anthem- the Welsh flag, with the distinctive red dragon on a white and green background, will be raised with pride in honour of the sixth-century bishop who became the patron saint of Wales. The Welsh Society - Costa del Sol is joining in with the celebrations, organising the traditional St David's day knees-up in CJ's Bar (today) and a special concert at the Moonlight Lounge Bar in Benalmádena on Saturday 2 March.
Since its formation in 2011, the Welsh Society has organised a St David's Day celebration, which has become the biggest annual gathering of Welsh people in the province of Malaga.
The Welsh Society - Costa del Sol was started by a small group of ex-pat musicians and entertainers who came together after continuously being asked to perform at other countries' international days. The group decided that there was a need for a St David's Day celebration, so a society was formed with the goal of raising funds for local and international charities, while also promoting Welsh identity.
"The society began with a group of like-minded people that wanted to explain what it is to be Welsh, and what being Welsh means to us, as well as encouraging the younger members of the society to participate in all things Welsh," Gary Benham, the organisations spokesperson, explains to SUR in English.
Since 2011, The Welsh Society has supported the Downs Syndrome Associations in Spain and in Wales, the Premature Baby Unit in Malaga, the Lions Diabetic Association, Age Care, Positively Pink and Blue, the Asociación Española Contra el Cáncer and the Ty Olwen Hospice in Swansea. This year, the organisation, which has so far raised over 12,000 euros, will be supporting FAMA, and the Last Chance Animal Rescue, two local animal charities.
"We hold an annual St David's Day celebration on 1 March each year and, as many of our members are entertainers, we manage to have a great deal of fun while raising funds for our chosen charity," Gary says.
One of the entertainers is Cath John, owner of the oldest Welsh bar in Benalmádena and president of the Welsh Society. Cath, along with secretary Debbie Benham, are very proud of their Welsh heritage and both are active in the promotion of their culture here on the Costa del Sol.
"Welsh people are very patriotic, although we tend to make less noise about our saint's day. A few years ago, we recognised the need to address the large Welsh population that lives on the coast," Debbie says.
The Welsh community makes up a large percentage of the British expats living on the Costa del Sol, although they are often labelled as 'ingleses'. However, although this annoys some Welsh people, Gary claims it is not really a huge problem for most.
"I know some people find it irritating that the Spanish often label us as English, but I don't think it's a big issue: it depends on the level of your patriotism," he says.
The Welsh Society is currently appealing for new members. Along with St David's Day, the society participates in local fayres and events, promoting Welsh customs and culture and traditional gastronomy.
"When people think of Wales they generally think of rugby and singing, but there is much more to our culture and history. It gives us great pleasure to be able to share this with others, while helping those in need," Gary concludes.