I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for a good fiesta... any fiesta really. And here in Barcelona we have a lot of them. And with a mentality of "go big, or go home" where nothing is done half way, you can always expect to have a good time. In my neighborhood of Gracia, it feels like there is a celebration going on just about every weekend. Ok, it's probably not every weekend, but at least once a month there is something happening.
This past weekend it was the Els Foguerons de Sant Antoni de Sa Pobla, a festival in Gracia that has from what I understand, both Mallorcan and Catalan traditions. I had plans with friends to go to dinner so it was the perfect opportunity to check out this festival since it's one that in the last two years I haven't attended (Josh went our first year but neither of us made it last year). With gigantes, music, dragons and diablos holding their pitchforks of fire just like in correfoc, you know it's going to be fun and something we absolutely wouldn't see in the States.
I expected we wouldn't see much of anything until after dinner so I was rather surprised to see the parade going by us, on their way to light the bonfires, as we walked towards the restaurant. We didn't have a time to watch everything, but we did get to check it out for about 15 minutes. We were just in time to see much of the parade go by which included the gigantes, some of which were familiar from the La Merce festival in September but others that were new to me. Surprisingly one of my local friends had never seen them - just goes to show when you live somewhere your whole life, often many traditions are over looked - I know I do that at home too... of course none of the traditions at home include fire and guns so maybe they just aren't as exciting at home...
Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures as I'm sure my local friends would have been fairly mortified if I whipped out my camera ;) I'll have to go again next year (twist my arm). So I'll just have to entertain you with my descriptions. The gigantes are literally giants, I'm going to go with about 15-20 feet tall with a person hidden underneath that holds them up and walks them along the parade route - I'm sure quite the balancing act. For pictures you'd have to go back to my La Merce pics in September of 2010 as I didn't see them in 2011. After the gigantes passed us by it was time for some guys with guns, yes guns..shooting what I would hope are blanks into the air. I've no doubt they have traditional names but I don't know what they are - any one who knows can feel free to inform me for future gun related entries. They would stop every so many feet, bend at the knee and then take a shot in the air. Within minutes between the guns and the devils with their pitchforks the air was filled with smoke.
As we watched the guys with the guns go by, we saw further down the road that the devils were prepping their pitchforks of fire. Seriously, does it get any better than devils running towards you with fire? I've no doubt at home you are shaking your head thinking I have gone crazy. But I think it's the fact that we would never do something like this at home that makes it all the more enjoyable to me here. Now when we go to Correfoc during La Merce and the devils are out with their pitchforks terrorizing the crowds, we are on a wide, 4 lane street. This particular festival was on a street the equivilant size to an alley, not a whole lot of room to escape from the sparks that flew from their pitchforks. Up close and personal...
We watched for a little longer while the musical portion of the parade went by - percussion in various forms. Drummers and Ball de Bastons. I have no idea what the drummers are called either, but the beat is definitely catchy and you can't help but shake your grove thing a little bit as they walk by. Ball de Bastons do a stick dance where they stand in 2 rows facing each other and clash their sticks together in rhythm. I love watching this and if it were me, I'd be the one messing up everyone's rhythm on a regular basis because this is something that definitely requires some timing and coordination of which I tend to have neither.
After the parade it's my understanding that several bonfires are lit, meals are cooked as a community on both the fires and on grills. However, we never made it to that part and by the time we headed back home at 3AM, I would imagine even the bonfires would have been out. But regardless, it's one more reminder of why Barcelona continues to enchant me on a daily (if not at least on a weekly festival) basis.