Even though albanicos (folding fans) are not a Spanish invention, here in Europe, the Spanish folding albanico is probably the best known and most widely used of fans. Fans were possibly first invented by the Egyptians at around 3000 B. C. and then, the Chinese ca. 2600 B. C.
Fans are said to have come to Europe by way of Christopher Columbus who reputedly included a feather fan amongst the gifts given to the Catholic Queen Isabel after his first trip to America, where the fan was also known by the Aztecs and the Incas. Fans are not only a very clever device to keep oneself cool during the high temperatures of the last few weeks; they are also used as pretty wall decorations. At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, fans were also used as an instrument of communication during a time when freedom of speech for women was somewhat confined.
A language of the fan developed where gestures and their respective meanings amounted to a coded way of socializing and interacting. Here are some examples of how certain meanings were expressed by the position and gesture of the fan:
To fan slowly meant: I am married.
To fan quickly meant: I am engaged.
To hold it opened, covering the mouth meant: I am single.
To hold the fan to the lips meant: Kiss me.
To open it slowly meant: Wait for me.
To open the fan with the left hand meant: Come and talk to me.
To strike the closed fan on the left hand meant: Write to me.
To semi-close it in the right hand and tap it on the left meant: I can’t.
Of course the ladies at the time knew many more coded ways of expressing their sentiments. Much more useful information can be gained from the Todo Albanico website if you so wished.
The photo was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: August 19th, 2010. The time was 12:17:01.