The Festival of las Colombinas began in the 19th century with a political objective of the Spanish government. Cánovas de Castillo supported the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America with the intention of strengthening the role of the monarchy, after the return of Alfonso XII, while projecting an image of a strong Spain abroad. In the celebration, the physical places play a very relevant role. These places, which are linked to Columbus, include Palos de la Frontera, the Monasterio de la Rábida, and Moguer. The different associations that were created at the time will also play a crucial role in The Royal Columbus Society of Huelva.
The celebrations currently take place during a week in the end of July and the beginning of August. The most important day is always August 3rd, when they commemorate the day that Cristopher Columbus left for the Indias from Palos de la Frontera in 1492 with the “Tres Calaveras” (The Three Skulls), the Santa María, the Pinta, and the Niña, on their first journey.
The new Recinto Colombino, a veritable fairground with its abundant vegetation, is located in front of the Ensanche Sur, between the Avenida Manual de Falle, the Calle Joaquí Turina, and the industrial port park. The festival offers three different zones: the attractions, the booths and the market, and the main entrance, which is located with the auditorium on the side closest to the estuary.
The festival officially begins with the Acto de Inauguración de las Fiestas Colombinas, although the bullfighting and the lighting of the Recinto take place a few days before, where the different booths come alive with Andalusian and Iberoamerican music, giving the Festival an international spirit. It is not common to wear flamenco clothes.
You can enjoy the traditional cuisine of the area, which is close to the sea. You can try things like the white shrimp, the coquina, and the prawn. All of these are typically accompanied by the typical drink Ponche Colombino: a veritable elixir made with cinnamon, peaches, white wine, sugar, and gaseosa.
During these days, the Royal Maritime Club of Huelva has organized for almost half a century the International Columbian Nautical Week, which includes different competitions like the Regata de Piragüismo, Regata de Vela, Travesía de Natación, and Concurso Colombino de Pesca. Boats flock from all over Spain to be in these competitions.
They also organize a good number of musical performances in the space designated as Music Next to the River, where cultural Andalusian concerts take place. They have also recently incorporated the Noche de Flamenco Onubense with the objective of highlighting and praising the art of flamenco. Renowned artists and promising young talent alike flock to this event over several days.
The traditional bullfighting celebrations held in the Plaza de Toros de La Merced are also very important.