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Playing Local in Barcelona

I always used to think the 4th of July was such an incredible day. Whether I was sitting on the sands of Miami Beach or along Navy Pier in Chicago, watching the exploding colors in the sky always made me forget about everything else in the world. There is a beautiful community built in those minutes between all those in attendance, no matter where they might be in the nation.

However, the day is about so much more than fireworks. It’s a celebration of American Independence. It’s a celebration of the country where I was born and where I have spent the first 20 years of my life.

Thus, never did I think that any festival in Barcelona could make me feel that same level of community and pride. Well, at least not until I stood in Placa Espanya with 300,000 of my new friends waiting for the Promusical to begin.

Except unlike 4th of July, this wasn’t just a one-day affair… The closing ceremony was just the last of almost a week full of events, celebrating the culture that makes Barcelona one of the best cities in the world.

For five full days every September, Barcelona celebrates, La Mercè, which is a festival more incredible than anything I have ever experienced back home. And I’m saying this as a proud three year veteran of Ultra Music Festival…. The Catalonians know how to celebrate. Not to mention, basically every event was free.

La Mercè began back in 1902 and is held in honour of Mare de Deu de la Mercè, the Patron Saint of Barcelona, which translates roughly to “Mother of God of Mercy.” Some of the common elements carried out throughout the week are devils, dragons, giants, and other mythological creatures.

So, back to the closing ceremony…

The Closing Ceremony was more than simply a fire show. It was a 45-minute musical spectacle, projection show, and firework display all coordinated to the central fountain. Oh, and the audience often participates with sparklers of their own.

La Merce was my reassurance that Barcelona was my perfect place to spend the semester. Some of my other festival highlights included…

 Free Concerts- There were more than 10 giant stages spread throughout the city, playing awesome indie music. Oh, and I somehow randomly dropped on a show with these guys.

 The La Merce concert scene had an eclectic range of musical offerings, and with so many stages spread across the city, there was literally something for everyone.

2. Free Museum Day- While the lines were a little long, I guess I can't really argue with "free."
 Palau Guell is a beautiful and ornate mansion designed by Antoni Gaudí. Every detail was carefully thought out and no expense was spared.

3. Elaborate Water Shows- I live 4 hours from Disney World, and I still found this impressive. See for yourself!

4. Castellers (Human Pyramids)- I don’t even know how to explain this, but basically people would climb on top of each other until they were over 10 people high. It was almost like watching a human, house of cards.

 The closing ceremony to the festival included a 45 minute
firework show. It definitely put any 4th of July Firework Show
I've attended to shame.

Well, I’m now off the New York for the weekend. I’ll explain later… but until then. I should probably get some rest.

Dillon Patel is the Fall 2014 CEA MOJO in Barcelona, Spain. He is currently a junior at Duke University.

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