What is a biznaga?
The biznaga is a tradition unique to Malaga city; these floral adornments are commonly referred to as biznagas malagueñas. They are basically handcrafted "flowers" of jasmine with a very strong, summery aroma. The unique blend of this distinctive fragrance, together with the sea breeze, has inspired many a love song and poem.
The biznaga is created from two components. The frame of the biznaga is a dried thistle, picked much earlier in the year, which has a large number of very narrow spikes coming out of its head. Once the thistle has dried out, it is then stripped back so that only the skeletal structure remains.
To make the biznaga, fresh jasmine is picked in the early morning before the flowers have opened (because it's easier to attach the buds on the dried stem while the flowers are still closed). The short-stemmed jasmine flowers are then slipped onto each individual spike, and when the flowers open, they form almost a ball of jasmine exploding from the stem.
Where can I buy a biznaga?
These fragrant floral creations are sold in summer on the streets of Malaga. Traditionally, the vendors, known as biznagueros, would wear a 'uniform' consisting of a white shirt with black trousers and a red waistband. Each biznaga is carefully pushed onto a base of a penca (fleshy cactus) which enables the vendors to carry around large numbers of the flowers without damaging them. As they stroll through the streets, a wonderful aroma of jasmine lingers in the air. A biznaga costs around 3 or 4 euros.
The history of the biznaga
This Malageño tradition started thanks to the city's Arabic legacy. Biznaga means 'gift from God' in Arabic and Malaga's mild climate has allowed jasmine to grow abundantly ever since the Moors introduced this summery plant hundreds of years ago. The biznaga is so popular in Malaga that there are even statues depicting this distinctive symbol. A local sculptor called Jaime Pimentel created a statue many years ago of a man holding biznagas, which was originally situated in the Plaza de Marina and was subsequently moved to the Paseo del Parque. Today you can find it in the Jardines de Pedro Luis Alonso, next to the City Hall. You can also find ceramic tiles in side streets off Calle Marques de Larios, as well as poetry in homage to both the biznagas and biznagueros.
Biznagas and the Malaga Fair (La Feria de Malaga)
'La Feria de Malaga' is the biggest festival of the year in the city and takes place on 12-21 August. The Feria kicks off with plenty of fireworks and the city centre is turned into a fair. During the festival, biznagas are everywhere, with giant models standing proud at the entrance to the fiesta area. Today, you can find not only the real biznagas, but also ones made out of various different materials, most popularly, china. Unfortunately, these china versions do not come with the beautiful aroma of jasmine, although unlike the live biznagas, which only last a day or two before they die, the manufactured ones last all year long.