Sevilla has a special colour
These days remind me of the sunny days I used to enjoy in Sevilla, when April meant colour and fun (and lots of holidays too). For those who don’t know, I was raised in Seville, and even though I live abroad now, I try to scratch some days from my holidays to pay my family and friends – and the city– a visit.
Even though I get excited every year when April comes, and I can pack my luggage of spring clothes and forget the Autumn-like Spring from London. This year was especially exciting because I was leaving Winterland and finally enjoying the southern sun… or that’s what my mind wanted to think.
After leaving an atypical sunny day in London, Seville welcomed me with another atypical cold and gloomy day. The world was upside down, and my spirits too. But hey, I still had a long week left and surely the weather would improve (it’s bloody April! Why wouldn’t?) –even though my family and friends had already warned me of the terrible weather conditions. “They have to be exaggerating, I’m sure it is not worse than London”, I would think, keeping my hopes up and denying any fact that would imply bringing winter clothes in the middle of springtime season.
But the fact was that the weather was crap – and I caught a cold in the midst of my denial estate– so I had no choice but to give in and ask my sister the warmest sweater she could lend me. To make things worse, that week the city was finishing the final touches for her festivity, considered as THE event of the year by many Sevillians: la Feria de Abril. This, along with Semana Santa, are the jewels of the festivity crown of the city, and their locals wear it full of proud.
Ever since I live abroad I haven’t visited it and I would see with a heavy heart all my friends enjoying under the sun of April, having fun, dancing and drinking rebujito (a mix of vino fino and 7Up) for the whole week…while I would enjoy the perks of living in London: endless rain, cold and cheap wine.
So yes, every time April comes my heart stings a little bit, I can’t help it.
What does this festivity have that makes me feel so miserable when I can't enjoy it?
As I said in previous posts, cultural traditions are the sort of phenomenon that you can't truly understand unless you have lived with them. There may be some traditions more likeable than others (such as Halloween, or Feria), but the meaning behind may remain on the surface. Instead, for those who share common meanings, the tradition becomes much deeper and personal.
In the case of Feria, even though the concept is simple -drinking, dancing, and overall having fun-, there are certain behaviours that may distinguish the outsiders from the insiders. There is nothing right or wrong with that, only that insiders would - and really do- take for granted certain elements that an outsider wouldn't do, and would feel utterly annoyed if they see someone not behaving by the established patterns.
For example, there is an implied dress code: you have to dress fancy to go to Feria. It's not a written, nor official rule, but it is taken for granted. Therefore, those who don't follow the dress code stand out as outsiders. Usually men suit up and women wear the regional dress, el vestido de flamenca (flamenca dress). However, if at some point they don't wear it, women make sure that they are properly dressed for the occasion.
In addition, the importance given to this dress is immense, to the extent that there is a fashion show only for this type of dresses, and there are high couture designers who are specialised in these designs. What’s more, women would pay high amounts of money for one dress and follow the fashion rules on design and complements. Therefore, an outsider would be easily spotted by wearing an old-fashioned flamenca dress (because, who cares? well, Sevillian ladies do).
Even though this festivity was initially conceived as livestock market fair, it has had time -over its more than 150 years of life- to soak into the cultural roots of the city, being only suspended for two years during the Civil War (1936-39). It typically starts two weeks after Semana Santa with Lunes Sábado de Pescaíto and ends with fireworks on the next Sunday. Over the years, it has changed of location in order to allocate the increasing visitors that each year would meet in the casetas to have fun, and now it is a 1200000 square meter area divided in streets, which are named after famous bullfighters (bullfighting, big time during feria too).
Historically, casetas become the home of most Sevillians for that week, who would invite their friends over and offer them drinks, food and a good time. With the time, these facilities have become some kind of exclusive, invitation-only clubs, for which their members would pay fees and have regular meetings over the year. Therefore, having friends with caseta is handy if you want to enjoy the full feria experience. Consequently, this exclusivity has often been criticised -mostly by outsiders- due to its restrictive nature (but hey, that's what happens with local traditions sometimes; locals like to enjoy their bit of exclusiveness).
However don't panic! There also other bigger, more inclusive casetas which are opened to everyone called 'casetas públicas', and last year the mayor decided to open one for visitors from abroad, so you can still enjoy the sevillanas, drink rebujito (or vino fino), and savour the taste of jamón, Spanish omelette and gambas.
Regardless where you come from, it is definitely an experience to live. Just so you know, if you don't have any plans for next April, you still have one year to learn to dance sevillanas and live next Feria at its fullest!