This past weekend I had the pleasure of participating in my first party-- or, festa mayor-- of Cubelles. In Catalonia, each city, town (and neighborhood for that matter) reserves a week each summer to celebrate their individual heritage. As David has spent the vast majority of his summers in Cubelles, this party is as much of a tradition as any holiday you or I know and love.
Who knew they had maypoles in Spain?
Going into the experience, I hadn't a clue what to expect. David had explained the affair by telling me that there would be fireworks, people dancing with giant sparklers and ultimately a huge party in a plaza near his parents' apartment. Since fireworks and the like are nothing new to me, I focused more on the party, bracing myself for a Spanish-style extravaganza that would inevitably go on into the wee hours of the morn. What I wasn't prepared for was a rich anthropological experience that not only left an impression me, but also opened my eyes to a vast cultural identity of Catalonia that extends far beyond Gaudí and Sangría.
Amazingly they performed this same dance the morning after the party. And let's just say it wasn't a quiet performance.
Prior to the fireworks and much-anticipated street gathering, David and I went to the historical downtown of Cubelles to see the traditional performances seen above. As the festivities transitioned from quaint folk dances into unrelenting and mind-boggling pyrotechnics, I began to feel like I was in a special on the Discovery channel. What to David and his friends was such a normal and mundane aspect of the annual celebrations (that they haven't even bothered to attend in many years) to me was an awakening. It's moments like these, that still occur after having more or less adapted to my surroundings, that make me feel more alive than ever and ecstatically grateful that I've been handed this new life.
The pink, female dragon has lost her flame in her old age, but now carries the gift of turbocharged, watery breath, which amply moistened the left side of my head later on.
Now, as I previously mentioned, David had told me about the Correfocs, some kind of "fire dance". He described men dancing with around with fireworks... "like sparklers" he described. HA. When a group of tiny children bearing protective, devil-looking costumes began to roam the plaza with spinning "sparklers" only a little larger than I'd imagined, I thought "Well, awwww, how cute!"
The crowd began to back away from the plaza as the second, now slightly taller group took the stage.
Shortly after, they brought in the big guns: full grown men equipped with what could easily be mistaken for weapons of mass destruction.
Anyone else getting a slightly satanic vibe from this all?
And as that apparently wasn't enough to clear the joint, all hail the Dragon!
No communal celebration is complete without a parade. All of that fiery goodness went on the move, bouncing sparks all over the maze of centuries-old narrow streets. The dancers, the dragons, the music all accompanied. Also present were Charlie, the legendary clown (apparently), and the Cubelles giants! (I assure you I am just as lost as you are.)
Hide your children!
This image is just so intense.
After the parade, some resting and dinner with David's family, we met up with his friends and arrived at the beach just in time to see the fireworks. We were closer than I had ever been to the ignition point, as they were set off right on the beach. I saw so many types of fireworks that I had never seen before! The show was the perfect length and very entertaining. I had a flashback to a similar scenario on a certain New Years Eve in a certain other foreign continent and was brought to tears by this perfect fairy tale moment that I had been denied just a few years ago. Everything was perfection. And the evening had just begun.
My favorites were these, which were shot off from beneath the water.
After the fireworks, we gathered with more friends to watch the encore of the correfocs.
These children are encouraged to play with fire.
Have you ever gotten sparks in your eye, Gabriel? It burrrrns.
At that point, some of the core Cubelles guys headed to Patrick's parents' apartment to get the drink on. I met Patrick when I was in Barcelona before celebrating San Juan. He's part of this amazing French family that speak a bazillion languages and live all over the world.
At his place, after taking some Jello shots that his sister had made (you should have seen the faces on the rest of them as they struggled to comprehend this foreign concept), she excused herself and her Portuguese boyfriend to the apartment of Gerard (also present) where the "older crowd" would be hanging out. We made ourselves comfortable on the terrace and played an amazing drinking dice game that was strikingly similar to many drinking games I knew from back home.
When David and my two liter bottles of vodka and orange Fanta were about halfway depleted, we went upstairs to gather the other troops, and then headed back towards the beach for the main event.
The bands played everything from American oldies to local Catalonian music to the Black Eyed Peas. I won't go into much detail as this post is already reaching novella lengths, but I will add that I played the part of the infamous Gloria this year, who is well known for her annual "upset" in the streets of Cubelles. Oh yes, good times.
I will also say this: during the entire party, which for us stretched on until just about sunset, I didn't once think about being in a foreign country. I didn't once think about language barriers. It was all about fun and drink and friends and celebrating all of the wonder that life has to offer. This is my life, as every day is for each of you. And in the end all that matters is whether or not we've made the most of it. I'll cherish this night for the rest of my life, and am already anxious for Cubelles 2011!