Sunday, September 21, 2014

Festes de la Mercè - Barcelona's Biggest Annual Cultural Festival

As this is an unorthodox month of blogging, I'm going to skip past my first couple weeks here (coming in my next post!) and proceed to tell you about the past two days of the fiesta (La Merce)!  Howard, who I met in Singapore, happened to be in town with his friend Maurice, and so we had a mini-Singapore reunion and hung out at the festival.

Festes de la Mercè is Barcelona's biggest annual cultural festival. Barcelona is the capital city of Catalonia, a region in Spain that was once its own sovereign state.  They speak Catalan (and Spanish, but they are very regionalistic and prefer Catalan. At the moment, to my naive eyes,  it seems like a linguistic mix of French, Spanish and Italian...). According to (the oh-so-credible) Wikipedia, the festival originally celebrated the Virgin Mary and according to the city's website, is now the official transition from summer into autumn. (Autumn at 25 degrees celsius and 85% humidity? Great!) 

Oh, and remember when they say "fiesta" in Spain, they mean all night. Literally. 

Here are a few highlights of the events we chose to attend:

  • The fire-breathing dragons parade (SO cool) on Saturday night. Most of the dragons had little kids riding on them 
Merce Dragon!

  • Fireworks that were honestly the best I've ever seen   - including palm tree shaped ones!
  • Late night (1 am) salsa concert in Placa Cataluyna (locals watching the concert started to salsa in the streets!)They looked SO good, it makes me want to learn!
  • Tapas, of course (these are pimientos padròn...more on food in my Hola, Barcelona! post coming up this week!
pimientos de padron
  • Human pyramids this afternoon (Sunday from 11:30 am until 2:30 pm --it was incredible!)  The pictures here just don't do it justice, as Howard, Maurice and I were way at the back to begin with. We advanced forward every time people left the square, but only had our cell phone cameras with us (mine is awful). 
  •  Basically, the premise of the tower is that they start with a small human pyramid and get taller and taller, eventually having small children (5 year olds) with helmets on scale 4 to 8 metre high human towers to stand at the top.  It is incredible. We saw one pyramid/tower topple and the whole crowd screamed (eeeek!) 
Human Pyramid!
Human Tower
La Merce Instrumentalists
  • Oh, and there were anti-abortion demonstrators that were making a big fuss before and during the first part of the show. Tons of us were booing them for trying to ruin such an amazing event. The police had to kick them out! So random!
Demonstrators at La Marce

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