Once a year about two weeks after Semana Santa, Sevilla’s “Feria de Abril” kicks off, opening with “la Ilumbrao”. The lighting of the main gate takes place at midnight on Monday. Every year the gate takes on a symbolic representation of a different part of Sevilla; this year it represents Plaza de Espanya, with its north and south towers and the bridges that cross the mini river.
I’m lucky to live in Triana, a neighborhood close enough to walk to the fair grounds but many people hunt for places to park, take crowded public transportation or the wealthy [it seems] hire a horse and buggy or ride a horse. The carts and caballeros are allowed to pass through the streets of the fair all day but are forced out after 8 to clean the streets and get ready for the nights festivities. Those as fortunate as I am also hit the streets with baby steps, restricted by curve hugging dresses.
The whole event centers around “casetas”, which are like a mix between a bar and a house. The casetas are similar to tents but seem more temporary and are well decorated. i would say that casetas are of three types, family run, association run and public. the first two types are exclusive, either you pay a membership fee to pay the costs of having a caseta or get invited to the caseta with someone who is associated. the last type, public are full of foreigners, young people, and those without connections, where we spent most of our time, having fulfilled all three characteristics. the public casetas were named after the distinct neighborhoods of Sevilla and then the two ruling political parties also offered public casetas.
This year there were around 1,400 casetas and only 10 were public. Our favorite was the Triana one of course. We were told that it was unheard of but we managed to get a front row table during live music at the public caseta.
Another typical elemenet of Feria are the strings of “farolillos”, the paper lanterns that are strung through the streets by the thousands illuminating the countless number of women in their “trajes de gitana” or flamenco dresses and men in suits or at least nicely dressed. An essential part of the outfit are the “complementos”, the earrings, the peineta, and the flor.
Inside the casetas you can buy typical feria food like a variety of fried fish and the typical drink of feria, Rebujito, which is Manzanilla wine mixed with Sprite. mostly women dance Sevillanas but you can find a few men who know the steps too. the music which accompanies the dance goes by the same name as the dance. check the link below for my favorite song.
I’m not sure I would feel comfortable with them calling it a fair if there weren’t rides and greasy fried food, but that’s OKbecause “Calle del Infierno” is full of typical Spanish fair food like “coffres” or waffles. there are also plenty of blinky lights, and spinning “cacharretas” acompanied by blaring music. I’m not much for losing my equilibrium so I avoided them but some friends wanted to go on one of the two “norias”. No big deal, ferris wheels usually just offer a scenic overview except that this ferris wheel went warp speed. causing us all to get a little queasy.
The ordeal lasts an entire week and since most of us worked it left the partying for a night time activity. On my third night at the fair I decided to hunt down the Peruvian Medical Association’s caseta, which I found online. I was hoping to make a contact, someone to offer insight or other contacts in Peru since I will be going there in a month. On our way out of the fair at about 1 in the morning we accidentally found the caseta so I figured I would try to talk my way past the doorman, which I managed to do.
inside i was pointed to Adan, who was sat at a table full of people. one got up and i introduced my self and made a pitch about the film we would be making. I was invited to a beer and to return the following day. he said “venga bien trajeado” so I could meet the president of the association I had no suit so I didn’t know how this would be possible. The following day I stumbled on a thrift store and a suit that nearly fit for only 30 euros it wasn’t terrible. Then I realized I had to work at 4 and was invited at 3. So I scrambled to cancel class.
When I got there I did meet the president who offered me food and drink but Adan wasn’t there like he said he would be with his adult children. I hung out for an hour waiting for him and then left still having enough time to make it to class.
I liked feria and would do it again but I don’t think i’m “Feriante” a word given to describe someone super excited and into the feria. like many have said its an elitist atmosphere where its all about who you know and showing off how much your dress or suit costs. But I think it’s still a place where you can take a walk with friends make some memories and have an enjoyable time.