Saturday, May 15, 2010

While you were celebrating Detroit's Downtown Hoedown...

The music got louder and above the dancing crowds, smoke and hopping bar came the sole word through the microphone: ‘Michigaaaan!!’ Michigan frat party? Not quite. I had just entered into my señora’s private tent in La Feria de Sevilla, and like everywhere else in this country, my face stuck out like a true red-white-and blue American. The band’s lead singer had met Haley and Melissa the day before, and because he happened to remember the name of our wolverine state, he happily alerted the rest of the tent that, yes folks, the Americans have arrived! I did a little dance of surprise/Michigan pride until I remembered that I was in Spain and NOT at a frat party—somewhere people actually dance like professionals…

So what is this ‘feria’ I am talking about? Originally a cattle trading fair, Sevillanos took up the opportunity (as they often do) to turn this random social gathering into a giant party and it quickly evolved into a weeklong round-the-clock spectacle including drinking, eating and best of all, dancing. There are hundreds of tents decorated with streamers and lanterns, many filled with live bands and of course all the tapas you could want. Just like at the most elite frat parties (is there really such a thing?) you have to be on the list to get past the intimidating looking suit-dressed bouncers (basically the same as a sober monitor t-shirt, no?) but once you’re in, you’re set for the night.

The women all wear elaborately styled flamenco dresses, complete with flowers in their hair, while the men all dress in suits. The music and ‘rebujito’ (famous Feria drink—pretty much straight up sherry) get flowing around the same time and pretty soon, the dance floors are packed. For the preteens who tire of the dancing too easily, there are dozens of carnival rides and roller coasters on the other side of the tents, where screams of terror fill the air. People arrive as early as 10am, and stick around until 6 or 7 the following morning (just in time for a churros and chocolate breakfast on the streets!)

Melissa had decided to buy a dress in Sevilla, but as I spent the first half of the week in Italy, the 200 euros for the dress wasn’t really worth it for three days of Feria. But as we got ready to leave the house (Melissa looking oh-so-Sevilliana and me, well, far too American in my sundress and sandals) Carmen casually mentioned that I might be able to fit into her daughter’s dress (who was conveniently traveling that weekend.) What ensued was an hour long make(-Gayle-into-a-Sevilliana-)over, with a whole lot of squeals of excitement from every direction. As we made it to the bus stop, (all these fancily dressed people took the bus to the Feria grounds—quite the sight) and asked two girls to take our picture, they asked where we were from, followed immediately by “We would have thought you were Spanish before you started talking!’ (Note—we asked them to take our picture in Spanish…)

We spent the next three days in Carmen’s tent, making our best efforts to limit our dancing partners to only other Americans, men over 60 or children under 10 (the ones least likely to judge.) Below you can see my favorite step of the Sevillanos dance (it's the last one, and far too much fun to just throw up your hands as so in the very last second and smile confidently, alerting others that clearly you've been doing it right all along.)

We spent one afternoon with some 15-year old friends we had made riding the carnival rides, where (though the oldest in the crowd by at least 5 years), I STILL managed to scream the loudest on the pirate ship. And we finally finished off the festivities with Carmen’s whole family, up until the grand finale fireworks show. I can easily say that Feria has been one of my favorite weeks in Sevilla thus far, and as I promised Carmen, I’d be sure to be back. The older Sevillanos will tell you that for them, the weeklong activities of Feria is just too long (too many people and exhausting), but for the young people, it’s not quite long enough. Considering my 15-year old friends were shocked to find out I was actually 21 after spending all afternoon together, I figure I’ve still got plenty of time to be young (or at least look it.) So Feria, adios for now, but know I’ll be seeing you again.

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