Just when I thought I had street festivals on lock, I ended up in Spain.
Partying here means so much more than just pre gaming shitty vodka and Sour Skittles with your friends and then stumbling out into the twilight wearing nothing but a miniskirt and a crop top in mid winter. (oh hey college!). Have you heard the word ‘fiesta’ before? Well, let me just tell you this isn’t a block party with some corn on the cob and a clown making balloon animals. It means the streets, parks and plazas are full of people and events for days and nights on end, food vendors scattered all throughout the city’s biggest park, and arts and crafts markets around every corner. And most importantly, it means you might even get a mid-week day off work. Lets chat about the most recent Barcelona fiesta- Fiestas de la Mercè. La Mercè, as us ‘locals’ call it, is a celebration of the patron saint of Barcelona. For the record, there are two patron saints, and if you ever come visit me I’ll show you the other one and tell you the history behind why the other one doesn’t get a week long party to call her own(look Dad, I know things!)
And this fiesta is a big damn deal. The PDF program for festival events (spanning from September 19-24) took me literally 45 minutes to skim through on my computer. If I had read the whole thing in depth I might never have actually made it to any of the events. Basically, there were events ranging from food truck gatherings to beat box performances to fireworks in the middle of a crowded square (which actually seemed like a major fire hazard, but who am I to discuss safety regulations).
From Friday to the following Thursday, the city was alight with free concerts, exhibitions, food and wine tastings and performances. If I’ve only learned one thing since moving to Spain, its that it is very much a nighttime culture- good luck trying to find coffee at 7 am (my favorite coffee shop doesn’t even open until noon), and you might not sit down to dinner until 11 pm. La Mercè was, of course, no exception. On a Saturday night, for example, there were events scheduled to begin at 3 am… which makes it slightly more confusing why there was a fireworks display at 7 pm (still light out).. but who am I to question a fiesta schedule.
And this is no weak-ass, local singer-songwriter, unknown dude-on-a-soapbox schedule. La Mercè included performances by both local and international bands and artists- On Tuesday, a Seinabo Sey (Swedish singer) show was followed by NONONO (playing at 1 am on a Tuesday, mind you) and the Saturday night of La Mercè boasted a concert by the Klaxons (UK) and Mishima. On Sunday evening, I watched a performance by the Spanish national beatbox champion. Friday night, we stumbled upon a hip hop/soul/jazz show headlined by Baloji (Belgium) in the middle of one of the city’s central plazas.. all FOR FREE.
Just in case you were too tired to handle 5 days of non-stop fiesta, chances are you also got a lovely mid-week break from work! The Wednesday of La Mercè was actually a municipal holiday- which means grocery stores, banks, schools and offices all got a whole day to recover from the festivities of the previous week.
I have to say- I was a little unprepared for the energy it took to consume that much entertainment in that little time. Coupled with leading tours through the packed city center, the events of La Mercè were a lot to handle! That said, come next year, I’ll be ready and armed with a crate of Red Bull, folding chair, earplugs, some snacks and a clear schedule.