Feria de Abril de Sevilla: May 8, 2011

Just for me, I thought as I read the Feria de Abril de Sevilla‘s last day was May 8, coinciding with my birthday. I was convinced that Feria would be a week of  festivities, with locals being unusually warm and inviting, and an endless fountain of rebujitos destined to make those curvy, polkadot flamenco dresses undulate under the Andalusian sun more than usual. There’s no better way to celebrate my birth week, I thought. It will be perfect.

As the Feria began, however, I realized there’s a unsavory, unseen side of the rich and dazzling colors of the spectacle. Simply put, Feria is  a week where locals simultaneously put on hundreds of private parties in a large public space. Casetas, little tents in which locals eat, drink, and dance the week away, line the public fairgrounds. It is inside the casetas that the private gatherings are held, sometimes so large that people spew out of the entrances into the dusty streets. Some of these casetas can be quite big, holding hundreds of revelers, bathrooms, a stage, a full bar, and a kitchen. To enjoy the benefits of a caseta unencumbered, one must pay dearly. And one must also pay dearly for year’s current fashions. In order to enter a caseta as a foreigner, you must have an enchufe, a hook up inviting you in. Without an enchufe, you’re the scourge of the Feria, relegated to the one of the few public casetas packed tightly with uncouth riffraffs clamoring for a space at the bar. Feria gives the appearance of being a public festival, but in reality it is conglomerate of private gatherings. (See my friend Cat’s recent, less cynical account of Feria etiquette.)

After realizing the very private nature of the Feria, I became disillusioned and spent much of the week inside reading, only emerging to wander around the fairgrounds to take photos. On the last day, however, my friends dragged me back out to the fairgrounds and loaded me up on rebujitos before charming our way into several casetas (it didn’t hurt that my friend had some incredible enchufes). But the nature of Feria continued to rear its ugly head. “What are you Americans doing here,” one lady asked us in a caseta frequented by members of the military. Excellent question, I thought as we tried to find more friendly environs. While it did end up being a glorious birthday thanks to my friends, I still can’t stomach the private, yet conspicuous nature of Feria culture.

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