BRUSSELS – The Spanish autonomous community of Cantabria on Saturday opened the 19th edition of the Belgian capital’s Folklorissimo (Festival of Folklore), which this year features Spain as guest country.
Through its participation in the event, Cantabria’s government is looking to leverage the Iberian nation’s special honor and promote that northern region as a tourist destination rich in folklore and gastronomy.
The festival, which aims to highlight Belgian traditions and underscore its ties to other countries, got under way at Grand Place – Brussels’ main square and a UNESCO World Heritage Site – with a performance by the “Virgen de las Nieves” dance company, which is based in the small Cantabrian town of Tanos.
Inaugurated by Spain’s ambassador to Belgium, Beatriz Larrotcha, and Brussels’ alderwoman of culture, Delphine Houba, the event will run through Sunday night and allow visitors (some 15,000 in previous editions) to sample typical Cantabrian products such as cocido montañes (Spanish bean stew), olla ferroviaria (railwayman’s casserole) and the region’s world-renowned anchovies, accompanied perhaps by traditional Belgian beers and cheeses.
This year’s festival offers people a chance to become better acquainted with Cantabria, a small region of natural beauty and culinary delights where in one day tourists can visit natural parks such as Cabarceno and enjoy a trip to the beach, Cantabria’s education and tourism minister, Marina Lombo, told EFE.
“We want to attract a more international tourism that also facilitates deseasonalization. Because the domestic tourism (market) knows Cantabria perfectly well,” Lombo said after taking part in the inauguration.
She said in that regard that it is very important for the regional government that in both the spring and summer months, which are “amazing weather-wise,” people “can enjoy how wonderful Cantabria is.”
That’s what we want to promote and this is an opportunity,” said Lombo, who traveled to Brussels along with Cantabria’s presidency and justice minister, Paula Fernandez.
Cantabria received more than 273,000 foreign tourists in 2018, 11 percent more than in 2017. That growth accounted for most of the tourism increase, since the number of visitors to Cantabria – both domestic and international – rose 5.3 percent last year.
No figures are available on tourist arrivals to Cantabria from Belgium, although Spain received 2.45 million visitors from that European country last year, up 7.5 percent from 2017.
Cantabria is the only Spanish autonomous community that has its own stand at the festival, although other regions – Andalusia, Aragon, Asturias, Catalonia, Castile and Leon, Castilla-La Mancha, Galicia, Extremadura, the Basque Country and Valencia – will be represented through music and dance performances.