Out of the Wings

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Bodas que fueron famosas del Pingajo y la Fandanga (1965), José María Rodríguez Méndez

English title: The Great Day When Pingajo and Fandanga Got Wed
Date written: 1965
First publication date: 1979
First production date: 1978
Keywords: family, family > patriarchy, family > parents and children, society > poverty, family > marriage, love > friendship, love > lust, morality > crime, morality > punishment, morality > judgement
Genre and type: tragicomedy
Title information

Pingajo is an informal term for ‘rag’ in Spanish.


Pingajo is getting married to 13-year-old Fandanga. They may be very poor, but their spectacular wedding will never be forgotten.


Madrid, 1898. Many poor men have been lured abroad to fight in colonial wars, tempted by the promise of fame and fortune. Unfortunately, most return as poor as they were when they left. A young man has recently returned from fighting in Cuba. For his efforts, he has earned the nickname Pingajo – meaning rag – because of his apparent ineffectualness in battle. This is, of course, a rumour that Pingajo fiercely denies.

Pingajo has returned home to an impoverished area of Madrid. Here, he spends his days drinking and gambling with his friends Petate, Salamanca and the local bartender Tuerto. As the play begins, Pingajo has been lucky enough to win Petate’s young daughter Fandanga in a bet. Even though Fandanga is only 13 years old, Petate thinks she and Pingajo will make a wonderful couple. Despite having almost no money, Petate promises Pingajo that the wedding will be the finest the neighbourhood has ever seen.

The wedding between Pingajo and Fandanga is arranged with neither consultation with the girl herself, nor with her mother Carmela. When Carmela finds out that her dear little daughter is to be married off so young, she is devastated. And so, when Petate brings Pingajo home to celebrate the news, Carmela attacks her husband. A vicious fight ensues between husband and wife, leaving poor Carmela sobbing in the corner. Meanwhile, Pingajo is introduced to his future wife. Fandanga is a very naïve little girl – the apple of her father’s eye. She is quite happy about getting married, especially when Pingajo gives her a lollipop. Seeing just how kind Pingajo is with Fandanga, Carmela soon forgets her misery and joins the celebrations. Everyone toasts what they are sure will be a wonderful wedding.

After drinking with his future in-laws, Pingajo returns late to the army barracks. Here, he is beaten up by the other soldiers, who laugh at the news of his engagement and make fun of his army record. The commotion wakes up the Lieutenant, who proceeds to punish Pingajo for his late arrival. When the Lieutenant learns that Pingajo is engaged to a young girl, he decides he wants to be the one who deflowers her. He tells Pingajo to bring Fandanga to the barracks the next day so that they can both sleep with her. If he does not follow the Lieutenant’s orders, Pingajo will be shot for desertion.

The next day, Pingajo takes his fiancée for a walk in Madrid’s Retiro Park. Taking advantage of Fandanga’s childishness, Pingajo gets her very excited at the prospect of seeing the barracks and meeting the soldiers. In her innocence, Fandanga thinks that the visit will be an adventure. Pingajo soon feels guilty when he realises just how naïve Fandanga is. In her mind, the wedding itself is just a game of dressing up. Pingajo decides not to take Fandanga to the barracks, much to her disappointment. The young girl has a huge tantrum, and Pingajo is forced to manhandle her home.

Pingajo’s defiance of his Lieutenant will have dire consequences, but there are more important things to consider, such as the forthcoming wedding. Petate, Pingajo and their good friend Salamanca have come up with a plan to finance the event. They decide to rob a local casino. Pingajo disguises himself as an esteemed soldier and enters the counting room of the casino. Here, he distracts the men counting the money until Salamanca and Petate arrive with guns. They rob the casino at gunpoint and run off into the night.

With the stolen money, Petate hosts a lavish street wedding for his daughter. Everyone is invited to partake in the spectacular feast. One person, however, finds the whole affair rather suspicious. Mother Martina, a local gossip and religious hypocrite, believes that Petate and his friends must have been involved in the casino robbery, since this is the only way they could have paid for the wedding. She tells her suspicions to the police, who then arrest Petate, Pingajo and Salamanca, much to the shock and outrage of all the wedding guests.

After the bright and happy wedding, the play ends on a dark note. Groups of women gather on the outskirts of Madrid, gossiping about the arrests. Petate has already been killed for his part in the robbery, and Pingajo is next to face the firing squad. The women sympathise greatly with the men’s plight, and some even suspect that they are innocent. Pingajo is to be executed by soldiers from his barracks. He is marched outside to the solemn beating of drums. The women are joined by Carmela and Fandanga, both hysterical at the loss of their men. Like a little rag doll, Pingajo flops forward before the firing squad can shoot him. He slumps, undignified, held up between two soldiers. The women beg the squad not to shoot him, but they are ignored. And so, Pingajo is shot and falls to the ground. The women bury him in a tattered Spanish flag.


The play is set in Madrid in 1898. Pingajo has returned from fighting a colonial war in Cuba. His situation as an impoverished and repatriated soldier reflects that of many poor young men during that time in Spain.

Critical response

The play was initially banned because of the scenes ridiculing the army.

A number of commentators note similarities between the epilogue and the esperpento style of Valle-Inclán’s dramas. Martha T. Halsey, for example, describes Pingajo, propped up by soldiers to face the firing squad, as an ‘esperpentic hero redeemed only by his refusal to sacrifice Fandanga’ (Halsey 1988: 27).

  • Halsey, Martha T. 1988. ‘Dramatic Patterns in Three History Plays of Contemporary Spain’, Hispania, 71.1, 20-30

  • Rodríguez Méndez, José María. 1979. Bodas que fueron famosas del Pingajo y la Fandanga; Flor de Otoño, ed. José Martín Recuerdo. Madrid, Cátedra

  • Rodríguez Méndez, José María. 2005. ‘Bodas que fueron famosas del Pingajo y la Fandanga’. In Teatro escogido, vol. II. Madrid, Asociación de Autores de Teatro

  • Rodríguez Méndez, José María. 2007. Bodas que fueron famosas del Pingajo y la Fandanga. Alicante, Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes, http://www.cervantesvirtual.com/obra/bodas-que-fueron-famosas-del-pingajo-y-la-fandanga--0/ [accessed November 2011] (Online Publication)

Useful readings and websites
  • Thompson, Michael. 2007. Performing Spanishness: History, Cultural Identity and Censorship in the Theatre of José María Rodríguez Méndez. Bristol and Chicago, Intellect

Entry written by Gwynneth Dowling. Last updated on 1 December 2011.

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