In the month of May and in the run-up to Christmas nowadays, the town of Álora has a very unusual attraction: the ‘mecedero’, commonly known as ‘meceero’, which is a makeshift swing in the middle of the street with ropes hung between balconies.
This used to be somewhere where young people would go to court each other while older villagers improvised songs about them, and the tradition is now being upheld on certain days of the year to keep it alive in the collective memory. There is also a mural in Calle Negrillos now, in the oldest part of Álora, near the Plaza Fuente Arriba, which is where the best-known ‘meceero’ was located.
The tradition began in the 19th century and continued until the 1960s or 1970s, when it was discontinued. However, it was recovered in 2015 as part of a day of coexistence which was organised for local people. The swing is put up again on those days, and anyone can have a go on it.
The ‘meceeros’ were not just in the village streets but also in rural areas. “The boys would send messages to the girl they were courting, either directly or indirectly, and people would usually respond with an improvised song which could be funny, romantic or even unkind,” says María José Sánchez, who runs the local museum. “One voice would sing and then others would join in the chorus”.
She isn’t sure whether the boys used to push the girls on the swing, or whether other people did, but women definitely took part somehow. “The girls used to tie a handkerchief round their ankles when they were swinging. Those were other times, it was considered indecorous to show the ankles,” she explains.
Now, the tradition has become a tourist attraction and anyone is welcome to swing on the ‘meceero’. This year, it was set up on 7 May, and the mayor of Álora, Francisco Martínez, also inaugurated a ceramic panel created by local artist Mari Flor Rengel, which aims to explain the tradition to visitors.