Valladolid , Spain

Semana Intercultural: Valladolid’s Week of Sharing Ideas and Cultures

Ayuntamiento de Valladolid

September 24, 2012

A cultural festival raises awareness and strengthens intercultural co-existence while promoting civic engagement through a collaborative planning process.

Photo Credit: City Council of Valladolid

It may seem odd that a Spanish city would celebrate the bicentennial of the independence of Latin American countries from Spain, but in 2010, the city of Valladolid made it an integral part of its VIIth Semana Intercultural.  Incorporating its colonial history into the celebrations of local immigrant groups from Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, and Ecuador was another way the city’s annual intercultural event goes beyond a festival of ethnic songs and dances.

The City of Valladolid takes pride in a cultural festival that unifies residents through shared traditions and common experiences. Since its establishment in 2004, the Semana Intercultural has become a major event on the city’s cultural calendar. Each autumn, the public festival rolls out a week of activities aimed at raising awareness and strengthening intercultural co-existence. Playful and participatory, it is a well-coordinated effort involving many city departments, agencies and immigrant associations who come together to create rich programming that targets all segments of society.

Set a Common Course

Valladolid is a medium-sized city of 314, 936, located in the autonomous region of Castille and Leon in north central Spain. Like many Spanish cities, its immigrant population is small (6,35%), but growing. The city’s Semana Interculutral was originally organized as part of  Valladolid’s first municipal plan for integration (2005-2008) to help “educate and sensitize the public about acceptance, appreciation and respect for cultural diversity.”

In 2011, the VIIIth Semana Cultural rallied over 8,700 participants and was formally recognized as a permanent program of Valladolid’s municipal Council and focal point for its work on civic participation and  inclusion.  Its greatest success has undoubtedly been to achieve the coordination and joint efforts of various associations of immigrants within the municipality as well as various departments and levels of government.

Now entering its ninth year, the city’s practical cross-departmental approach ensures all pertinent departments work together, from  Social and Family Welfare and the city’s Immigrant Service Centre to Tourism and Commerce. The city also collaborates with the local Municipal Council of Immigrants, a consultative body convened by the city with representatives from local immigrant associations, trade unions and non-profit organizations. Additional financial support comes from the Junta of Castille and Leon and the Government of Spain.

Playful and Informative

Each year’s Semana Cultral event contains key programming elements, such as a concert for youth, a festival of cultures and a day devoted to the discussion of migration issues. In 2010, the theme was “set a common course” and included a children’s puppet show in schools, a performance by an Afro-pop band, and a community roundtable on the management of cultural diversity in the municipality.

But cultural offerings are not a one-way street. Introducing Valladolid’s own culture and history to newer residents of the city is as important as sharing good food or cheering at concerts. For example, a literary walking tour through city streets featured in the acclaimed recent novel, The Heretic, by Miguel Delibes, was aimed specifically at immigrants.  The novel’s hero is a local boy during the historic Spanish Inquisition who challenges intolerance.


Valladolid’s model of connecting culture with civic participation and social awareness has resulted in many accolades. The nearby town of Leon followed in Valladolid’s footsteps and has held its own Intercultural Week for the past five years, also in cooperation with local associations and organizations working with immigrants.

In 2010,Spain’s Ministry of Labour and Immigration recognized the initiative in a published compendium of successfully implemented local plans that raise awareness issues of equality and non-discrimination.  In 2012, the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP) selected it as an “innovative practice.”

Making it Work for You:

  • Ensure a good mix of programming with activities for different groups such as children, youth, older people and also the general public.
  • Planning and producing the event in collaboration with local immigrant associations and community groups demonstrate the city’s commitment to inclusion.
  • A horizontal, cross-departmental approach that includes all relevant bodies in the planning process ensures a successful and sustainable event by mainstreaming the agenda and reducing silos.

For this Good Idea contact:

José Ignacio Muñoz González Ayuntamiento de Valladolid, Técnico del Centro de Atención al Inmigrante , Centro de atención al Inmigrantes
C/ Antonio Lorenzo Hurtado, 8
Valladolid 47014

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