Monday, September 24, 2007

Mercy, mercy me, it's La Merce!


Today has been another public holiday in Barcelona. The last one was September 11th, which is sort of "Catalonia Day" and is called the Diada. Today, September 24th, is a holiday in the city of Barcelona, not in all of Catalonia nor anywhere else in Spain. It's called "La Mercè" which means The Mercy and which refers to Our Lady of Mercy. It's Barcelona's "Fiesta Mayor" or "Main Festival."
.
Every city, town and village in Spain has a "fiesta mayor" and many were originally based on saints and such. In big cities, in addition to the official ones which are public holidays, every neighborhood has it's own little "fiesta mayor" which, while not official holidays, involve such things as parades, street parties, communal meals, concerts, carnivals for children, etc. I suppose one of the reasons for these little fiestas is that many big city neighborhoods were once separate towns. Anyway, just about every week in Barcelona there is a neighborhood "fiesta mayor" somewhere. But La Merce is the whopper of 'em all.
.
Nearly every corner of the city has had something going on this weekend, including parades, firework displays, food tents, arts and crafts booths, outdoor concerts, etc. I just came in from the final parade of day, the Parade of the Giants. The giants, known as "gigantes y cabezudos" in Spanish, are made of paper mache and are worn like a costume by marhers. Cartoonish and imposing at the same time, they are representative of Kings, Queens, Pirates, Fishmongers, Laborers, Dragons and more. There was one of a woman with a breast exposed who was holding a platter with a stingray on it. I couldn't quite figure that one out. There was also a pair of giants dressed like a priest and a showgirl that seemed to resemble Prime Minister Zapatero and his wife. Hmmmm.
.
One of my favorite parts of the close of the festivities is the ability to walk in the middle of Via Laietana at dusk with hundreds of other people. This street, normally full of vehicular traffic, is converted into a pedestrian walkway after the parade. Walking in the middle of it allows for a different perspective of the architecture.
.
On my way home tonight I also walked through the street carnival that has been set up near the Barceloneta Yacht Basin. To be honest I had one thing in mind -- to buy fresh, hot, sugar-coated churros! My objective was easily reached, so now I will say goodbye and enjoy the treat. (OK, OK... I admit I ate a few before I got home. However, more await!)
.
Chao amig@s,
.
Carloz
.
P.S. I was inspired this weekend to translate/adapt the articles about La Merce that appear in the Spanish and Catalan versions of Wikipedia for the English version, since it had contained nothing about the holiday previously. If you want to read about its history, click the following link: La Merce on Wiki.
.
P.S. The photo above is from Larry&Flo's postings on Flickr. For more great photos of the event visit their pages.

No comments: