The First Month + Barcelona Festival Highlights

Mary Katherine Prehn
September 29, 2017
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“Hola, eh, me llamo Mary Katherine” *buzz*. There I was, timid and sweaty, I entered the 3 x 3 elevator of my homestay apartment. Realizing how out of shape my spanish speaking muscle was from the summer, I anxiously awaited the introductions with my host family. Ana greeted me at the door, smiling in a cotton dress and followed by a white ball of fluff named Pongo, my mother for the next 3 months welcomed me into her home. As we walked down the long tiled apartment hallway which was covered in family photos, various ceramic altar dishes, and postcards and pictures of the various 50 states, Ana introduced me to her space and told me to make myself at home telling me I should treat it as was my own. After settling into my bedroom and grinning obsessively to compensate for my rusty spanish I looked around at my new surroundings.  Paula my host sister played classic rock from her room. American songs which I could recognize right away. I struggled to open my balcony doors for a while realizing I would have to get used to this oven-like space, but finally Ana showed me how and I stood in front of the breeze, stupid, but less sweaty. Ana has continued to be helpful since that moment whether its telling my roommates and I the best Karaoke spot, or the best events for the festival weekends, she has made sure we are comfortable and informed.

It has already been a month since that first day, and I have made myself at home with my 2 host siblings,1 host mother, 2 roommates, and 1 Pongo the dog. I have a routine now, which is exciting to say, and this first month has been a whirlwind of firsts while I get to know the vast city of Barca. One thing is for sure, I am grateful that I have more than this month here. I have 2 and a half more months to enjoy Barcelona and make it my own. There is so much I haven’t seen yet and I’m excited to explore more. Luckily I was able to be here for one of the biggest weekends of the Fall, La Mercé festival. A MUST DO.


La Mercé festival: While many chose to travel to Oktoberfest this weekend, I had heard about La Mercé and the many events that go on throughout the weekend. I decided to stay and see what one of the most coveted holidays was like in Barcelona. Honoring the patron saint of Barcelona, Mare de Déu de la Mercé, the festival has been celebrated since the Middle Ages since the city was delivered from the plague by the Virgin of Grace. While there are many events throughout the weekend, I attended 3 main events I had anticipated since my arrival here.

Events: There are many throughout the festival at every hour of the day from art exhibitions to dances and concerts, but I decided to highlight the 3 that I attended and enjoyed the most.

Correfoc, or the “fire run” is when the streets open up for the devils and various teams in masks and pyrotechnic dragons and sparklers dance around in the streets. While you can choose to stand closer to the “action” which requires eye protection, standing right at the entrance of the devil’s walk was perfect. We got lucky, but this is definitely a thing to get there early for as the streets and barricades do fill up. Luckily its easy to find by the fireworks shooting up at the end of Via Laietana in Barrio Gotico.


Els Castellers, or ‘human towers’: With IES Abroad we went to Tarragona and actually got to create our own human tower with other members of IES Abroad, coached how by one of the Catalan teams from the area. This was one of the things I was not going to miss. Located in Jaume 1 plaza, about 5, or so it seemed, teams from around Cataluña began lifting each other into the air in 10 story formations. Looking this up on youtube does not compare to actually being witness to one of these creations. (Note: They close off a lot of the streets around the plaza so try to get there early to get into the plaza for a good view).


Piromusical: Forget any 4th of July fireworks show you have ever seen because this will top it. The entire city of Barcelona gathers on the long walk in front of the Montjuic fountain to celebrate the closing of the festival. This was more than I expected. With synchronized music, bright lights from the fountain bounced off the facade of Montjuic as fireworks played along with the rhythm of songs varying from Of Monsters and Men to David Bowie. Each musical number was different and played into the next with flare. This is a must see.


Even though I am planning trips for the upcoming months here in Barcelona, I am so glad I took advantage of such a special weekend for the people of Barcelona. Joining in on the excitement was a great way to really establish connections to this special place and culture. So when you are planning those special trips to other parts of Europe, don’t forget to check the Barcelona calender! Don’t forget about the city you chose to come to, it’s a popular destination for a reason. You never know what experiences are right at your doorstep. La Mercé was a great introduction to what this city can offer. Oktoberfest is three weekends. La Mercé is only once so choose wisely! You won’t be disappointed.


Mary Katherine Prehn

<p>I grew up in San Antonio, Texas and by the 3rd grade I knew I loved speaking Spanish. While my skills have come from learning the colors of the rainbow to reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Spanish culture and language has always been a part of my education. Both English and Spanish have been clear interests of mine throughout my adolescence, and both allow me to communicate in different ways while stretching to understand what is around me.</p>

2017 Fall
Home University:
Sewanee - The University of the South
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