Vigo, Spain’s Christmas light show is a tourist attraction, but can it surpass the Big Apple’s as the mayor hopes?
Abel Caballero, the mayor of the Spanish city of Vigo, has been obsessed for five years.
“I want to tell the mayor of New York to get ready because you’re going to see the city lights of Vigo from there,” he declared.
Mr. Caballero, 77, plans the lights each year from a small office in the Atlantic coast city and challenges the Big Apple’s mayorship come Christmas.
The first message was addressed to Bill de Blasio, and this year the current mayor, Eric Adams, sent a message.
“New Yorkers would be jealous because the lighting in Vigo is really top-notch,” he said.
It’s not just the 11 million LED lights that decorate the city’s streets, it’s the 44-meter-tall Christmas tree, the giant Ferris wheel, the skating rink, and even works wonders in a southern European city that hasn’t had snow since 1987. That even includes snow machines.
The spectacle costs the city of around 300,000 people 2.37 million euros in losses each year.
Who is the most popular mayor in Europe?
Caballero, a socialist politician, initiates a duel every year, but the mayor of New York has so far refused to do so.
However, the Spanish mayor did not give up and, having won everything domestically, is now fighting a David vs. Goliath battle on the international stage.
He won a landslide victory in the last local election in May, and after 16 years in power, the mayor rules with an absolute majority.
His longevity is remarkable in a country that has been plagued by political instability in recent years.
Do Christmas lights have anything to do with this majority of voters?
“Christmas has a lot to do with me being the most elected mayor in Europe,” Caballero told Euronews.
“But the most important thing is a continuous dialogue with people. It’s about making the dialogue, the attention to the people, even the small talk on the street, permanent,” he added. Ta.
He attributes his success to several factors, but there is no doubt that his Christmas fights are known throughout Spain. It piques the curiosity of Spaniards who visit the city every year to see this light show with their own eyes.
Before that started, some hotels in Vigo had 20% occupancy over the Christmas weekend. That has completely changed and now the city is usually packed.
Euronews called the city center hotel to confirm. We were told that there were no rooms available on weekends and it would be difficult to find a room that was not booked.
Introducing Vigo’s Christmas to Europe
The man, who served as the country’s transport minister in 1985, returned to local politics to, among other things, bring Christmas back to his hometown.
“I love Christmas. I have great memories from my childhood. When I was young, society was different and less developed, but we spent Christmas with great enthusiasm.” said the mayor.
“When I was 20 years old, I was studying at Cambridge University, but for political reasons I could not return to Spain. It was the time of the Francisco Franco dictatorship, and I spent Christmas with my wife Cristina. We spent the same time in Spain. We enjoyed it just as much, but it’s a big yearning for the rest of the family,” he continued.
For this reason, the mayor wants to make Christmas a shared experience and make people feel at home when visiting Vigo.
“Vigo has become a kind of symbol of Christmas throughout Europe. We want to do the same in America, and that’s why we improve it every year,” Caballero says.
After lighting up Vigo’s 450 streets, you might think that the mayor’s mansion would be an extension of the lighting dream, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I don’t have Christmas lights at home because nothing beats the decorations of the city,” he explains.
On the streets of Vigo, voices are rising against the “waste” of public money and energy.
Nevertheless, Caballero claims that the use of LED lighting has reduced the city’s consumption. But experts say these lights often cause even more severe light pollution than traditional light bulbs.
The mayor defended himself by saying, “Everything has critics these days, right?”