Monday, April 14, 2008
"Sevilla tiene un color especial"
Call Andalusia old-fashioned, unproductive, over-indulgent, if you will...as I sometimes do when the "siesta" cramps my consumer habits, when the "bar creatures" in the Guardia Civil never cease to hit on me when I duck in to use the bathroom, or when I order vegetables and they inevitably come doused in oil or deep-fried...but this week, no one can complain!
At midnight last Monday, thousands of Sevillianos and extranjeros braving the rain and ferocious winds, huddled together drinking rebujitos in one great botellón, for the traditional lighting of the Portada. With a marching band playing rambas and flamencos, the group surged forward to pass through the huge entranceway, newly designed and constructed every year to welcome you to FERIA de Abril!!
For 10 months of the year the Feria grounds are a wasteland and an occasional parking lot for big city-wide events, but two months before this particular week the crews begin constructing row upon row of little houses called casetas, each owned by different companies, member associations, or wealthy families. The casetas are elaborately decorated, inside and out, with wallpaper, antique mirrors, classic Feria posters, furniture, stages, full-service bars, kitchens, and bathrooms. They are arranged in a huge grid that runs more than 7 street blocks, with street names and barrios of their own.
Going to the fair is anticipated all year long. Dirt floor, carnival rides, circus animals, greasy food, bad weather, or not...you dress up for Feria. The women come in elaborate, colorful flamenco dresses, with flowers and dazzling combs on top of their heads and matching mantoncillos around their shoulders. The men traditionally wore bull-fighter style suits (as Feria also marks the beginning of bull-fighting season), but for a long time now have donned a classic suit and tie, unless, that is, they are one of the privileged few who ride a horse to the fair, as this age-old tradition requires the age-old attire!
Feria is one huge flamboyant, clamorous, lively, spectacle...yet, somehow, elegant and refined. The majority of casetas are private, which means invite-only. You must know a member of these casetas to be allowed in. Luckily, between all of us girls, we had plenty of invitations and were usually allowed to bring the group. Mara also brought me along to meet her host families from her study-abroad days in their casetas.
Each caseta is filled with families, friends, co-workers, neighbors, all drinking and eating and dancing the night away. This is a very special moment for Sevillanos, who don't often have the opportunity to entertain all of their gente in one place as the majority of them live in pisos no where near large enough for parties such as these.
Mara and I spent the last two months taking private Sevillanas dancing lessons with a Spanish friend, spending hours agonizing over which dress to buy (they average around 200euro), and carefully choosing our accessories....we were ready. We dazzled the Sevillanos at each caseta we attended with our confidence and ability and were the envy of many the extranjero, who only wished they had the movement in their sangre, as we seemed to have. We were at times mistaken for Sevillanas, which brought immediate grins to our faces and unavoidably betrayed our true identities. We danced until six in the morning the last three nights of Feria and wrapped up the whole experience by eating churros with chocolate sauce in the street, as all of the exuberant Spaniards do in the wee morning hours of Feria.
Having experienced it, in all it's authentic, joyful, glory...I will now dare to say, there is nothing I love more about Sevilla than Feria! Hasta el proximo...Ole'!
A glossary for my readers...:)
"Sevilla tiene un color especial" ~ title of popular song (and expression)
extranjero ~ foreigner
rebujito ~ traditional Feria drink of Manzanilla (sherry) and 7up
botellón ~ gathering and drinking in the street, think "tail-gate"
portada ~ façade
feria ~ fair
caseta ~ stand, stall
barrio ~ neighborhood
mantoncillo ~ flamenco shawl
gente ~ people
piso ~ apartment
Sevillanas ~ regional version of flamenco dancing
sangre ~ blood
Hasta el proximo ~ Until next time