Well, it appears we arrived just in time for Barcelon’a largest festival of the year, La Mercé. It is held in honor of the city’s Patron Saint, Mare de Deu la Merce, although we’ve yet to recognize religious elements in the featured events.
Yesterday, we headed down to Plaza St. Jaume in the Gothic Quarter to check out the Castellers (human towers). It’s a Mercé festival tradition that originated in the Catalonia region of Spain. Each of Barcelona’s major barrios fields a team in a competition to build the highest human tower. What a wonderful way to settle friendly rivalries between villages!
Thousands of people were already crammed into the plaza when we arrived. Then the 80+ member teams marched in and any sense of personal space we hoped to maintain was completely lost. The team from Sants occupied a space right in front of us, so we had a close-up view of the action. Here’s how it works. A couple dozen super large, middle-aged men arrange themselves in concentric circles, leaning forward, towards the center.
Then the younger (and lighter) men, climb up on top of them, forming another smaller circle of about 10 people. As the rows get higher, the people get smaller and smaller. Teenage men and women form the higher levels, and then, just when you think, “wow, this is getting a little dangerous,” a six-year old kid scampers up the tower to the top. Sants ended up winning the competition, managing to make a tower of nine levels. (And yes, one of the towers did collapse as they were dismantling, but apparently no one was hurt!)
Issabella kept saying she was born in the wrong country and was jealous of the kids who got to climb to the top of the tower.
I was pretty happy not to be this dude at the base.
Later in the evening, the music began. There are venues set up all over the city where free concerts were being held. And, as if the party wasn't fun enough, this year's organizers of the festival decided to bring in 30 music and performance groups from Senegal. We had a blast last night dancing to Daby Touré. Check him out!