I will take this moment to apologize for the tardiness of this post. I am finally starting to realize that despite the fact that it is 80 degrees outside and the only activities that I can seem to make time for involve either the beach or some other part of Barcelona that lets me be outside, I am still a student and school has actually begun.
Over the course of the semester, I will have the opportunity to participate in many cultural activities in the form of festivals. At the end of September, I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in the celebrations of La Mercè (pronounced mer-say), an end-of-summer festival held every year that celebrates the city of Barcelona and its patron saint, La Mare de Déu de la Mercè (which is Catalan for our Lady of Mercy). Over the course of three days, the city was filled with general chaos in the form of street performances, free concerts, and parades. The metro ran continuously for the duration of the festival, so the party never stopped…not that it ever really does in Barcelona.
During my study abroad orientation for Barcelona I vaguely remember students telling us about the insanity that was La Mercè. I particularly remember them regaling us with their stories about Correfoc, which in English translates to fire-run: “The program directors are going to tell you not to go, which means that you are definitely going to go. Just remember to wear jeans, long-sleeves, and cover your hair…oh, and sunglasses.”
Heeding their advice, I showed up to this event in my long-sleeve tee, jeans, and a hat. I left my house thinking I would be perfectly fine, and then I arrived. There were people everywhere, and everyone (well the locals) were wearing hoodies, gloves, and face masks. It looked like everyone was ready to go skiing. That’s when it hit me that maybe I was a little underdressed. Then I thought, what the hell have I gotten myself into?
Here’s what happens: Spectators line this long avenue in the Barcelona city center where a group of individuals dressed up as devils dance to the drums of a traditional gralla and set off fireworks among the crowds of spectators. I’m talking, people running at you with giant, spiraling sparklers. There is also a fire-breathing dragon. Think of it like the Running of the Bulls, but with fire.
My friend Mina and I did not know what to do with ourselves. As the devils made their way down the street, many of the spectators ran into the street to dance to the beat of the drums under the shower of sparks. Mina and I did not. Since we couldn’t run, when the devils came at us with their fireworks ablaze, we dropped to the ground like any logical human being would and prayed that the other spectators hovering over us would keep us from getting burned.
I could not believe what was happening. People were literally lighting fireworks and shoving them in your face. Let’s just take a moment to imagine the Fourth of July having an event like this. Oh wait, that would never happen in the United States! People would get sued so fast.
After Correfoc, we ended our night with a few friends and thousands of other people at the base of the Montjuic mountain, where we watched the most amazing fireworks show. It might be the best one I have ever seen. Or maybe I was just grateful that the fireworks were in the sky instead of in my face.
Moral of the Story: While one of the many things that I love about the city of Barcelona and its people is their sense of adventure, this is one activity I don’t think I will be participating in again. I think next time I will watch the spectacle from one of the many office buildings or apartments that line the street.
Here’s a video of last year’s Correfoc: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZiJqeVQWpg&feature=related. In the beginning it shows the children’s version, if you fast forward about halfway through you’ll see the adult version, which is the one I attended.