Apr 04, 2019
Mackerel Day is coming to Mutriku, one of its most popular and multitudinous festivals. In this article you will find out more about Mackerel Day, and why you should not miss this festival that joins Basque gastronomy and tradition.

What is Mackerel Day?

Next Saturday, 6th April, Mutriku celebrates one of its most well-known festivals: Mackerel Day. But what is Mackerel Day?

Let's start with the basics: mackerel is a blue fish similar in size to herring, with a characteristic greenish back with black stripes. It has been caught in large quantities and despite its nutritional qualities (it is high in protein and omega 3 fatty acids), until the 90s of the past century it was underutilized and underappreciated, except in fishing villages such as Mutriku.

As a result, the people of Mutriku, called “mutrikuarra” in Basque, decided in 1993 to spread out the word about the benefits of this fish. And it would turn out that Mackerel day not only would serve to promote the many virtues and the potential of mackerel, but also to establish a true folk festival in Mutriku, steeped in marine tradition. The whole town is involved in the preparations for the celebration, which this year is going for its 25th edition, preparing and distributing more than 20,000 “pintxos”. Traditionally it is eaten roasted, but the versatility of mackerel allows it to be prepared and tasted in a dozen different ways.

Mutriku, a village linked to the sea

The village of Mutriku has a long fishing tradition. Since the year 1200 there are documents that testify the hunting of whales by mutrikuarra sailors; when the town belonged to the Kingdom of Navarre the annual tribute consisted of a whale, a fact that is reflected in the coat of arms of Mutriku. And the relationship of the village with fishing has not been limited only to whales. Until recent times, the port has been home to a large fishing fleet that has been dedicated to fishing many other varieties such as albacore tuna, anchovy, hake, monkfish, squid ... and of course, mackerel. Its season extends from February to April, and it is still captured in the traditional way, by hook.

The celebration

Although Mackerel Day itself does not take place until the first Saturday of April, the celebrations already started last week, with the presentation of the Berdel Aipamena. This award is given annually one week before Mackerel Day, to people or associations significant to Mutriku, or that have contributed some extraordinary benefit to the town. In 2019 it has been awarded to the Gaztetxe of Mutriku.

In 2019, Mackerel Day takes place on 6th April, and as every year, it comes with a program packed with activities. The craft fair at Plaza Txurruka will kick-off the celebrations at 10:30am. Then, starting at 12:00pm, the traditional "pintxopote" through the Old Town, designated Monumental Ensemble, will offer the opportunity to sample the proposals of the local bars. At the same hour will start the the 14th Sailing Championship in the port of Mutriku, all livened up by local trikitilaris. Then, at 1:00 pm the Mutriku Choir will offer a concert at Plaza Zabiel. And in the afternoon, at 18:00pm, there will be a pintxo tasting at the port, followed at 20:00pm by a concert by the band Enkore. For this edition about 25,000 pintxos will be prepared, cooked in eight different ways: roasted mackerel, “marmitako” of mackerel, “piperrada” of mackerel, mackerel pudding, mackerel surimi, mackerel with seasonal peas and Swedish style smoked mackerel.

And if you are unable to get to Mutriku this Saturday, the town has many attractions that make the visit worthwhile any time of the year. Starting with its Old Town, declared Monumental Ensemble, which among others houses the Arrietakua Palace, the private residence of the Count of Mutriku and now open to guided tours. For nature lovers, Mutriku is part of the UNESCO Geopark of the Basque Coast, and has beautiful beaches, spectacular cliffs, hidden valleys, and two saltwater pools in the port itself. In addition, Mutriku is part of the Camino de la Costa, the Camino de Santiago variant that runs along the Cantabrian coast. Mutriku offers marine flavor all year round.