¡Vámanos a la Feria Cariño Mío!

My friend Kelly and I in a caseta, “Las Gitanas de Chicago”
Two women dancing Sevillanas on the streets outside of the casetas

Finally, the most anticipated festival in southern Spain has come and nearly passed. Since Monday at midnight, I have been eating, drinking and dancing (in the rain) at the Feria de Abril, or the April Fair. Imagine a fairgrounds large enough for a state fair, full of colorful tents, with the smell of fried fish wafting from each one. Inside, women in flamenco dresses and men in suits are dancing a lighter version of flamenco, toasting to each others health with a glass of fino sherry. Outside, horse-drawn buggies parade through the streets (all named for bullfighters, of course) and men dressed in a Jerez-style riding suit trot along as a women dressed as a gypsy swings her feet over the horse and rides side saddle. It’s sensory overload, especially after a few glasses of rebujito.Feria started a few months ago when I bought my flamenco dress. Many dresses I’ve seen cost upwards of 300E (more or less $450 USD), plus shoes, plus alterations, plus accessories like gigantic earrings, shawls, bracelets, a flower for your hair and hair combs that could often poke someone’s eye out. My dress and complementos, all together, was about 170E. I picked something simple I could wear next year, too, as the styles change from year to year. I kept getting more and more excited seeing the tents go up on the recinto, seeing trajes hang in every laundromat and watching more and more publicity on TV.
Traditionally, Feria starts on the Monday two weeks after the completion of Semana Santa. The whole of Spain seems to come to Sevilla to celebrate – most of the roads are blocked, prices for just about everything are adjusted, and there is nowhere to park.
Feria begins every year with the pescaito. Pescaito is fried fish, and it’s eaten in a land locked city like Sevilla more than anything else! The socios and deunos of the casetas all eat fried fish to kick off the festival. Dájame explicar: Casetas are like makeshift houses of all sizes that are owned by a family or group of friends, a business, a political party, or whoever wants to pay a lot of money each year (in one, each family paid about 750E a year for the caseta). There are presidents and socios, or pretty much people who pay. They construct the caseta, decorate it with pictures of bullfights or fans or Sevilla, contract a restaurant. There’s usually two rooms in a normal caseta owned by a family that occupies just one restaurant – one with the bar and bathrooms, and another with the tables for eating and room to dance.
I gave a lesson and met Kike and some of our friends Monday night for a beer or two before we went to the Feria. At midnight on Monday, the portada, or the main gate, of the fairgrounds lights up. We got there right as it was happening. It’s STUNNING at night, take a look below:

Kike’s friends Susana and Alfonso have had a caseta for years, so we started out there. I immediately forgot about being tired and having to work the next day, or that I was wearing ratty pants and ratty sneakers (most people dress up for Feria). Kelly and I knocked back a few jars of rebujito, which is a half-bottle of sherry and two cans of sprite, and I met alllllll the socios of the caseta. Waking up for work was super hard the next day, and it was an indication how the rest of the week would be!

Women on horseback, a common site in the Feria

The weather was awful – rainy and cool – so most people hid in their casetas. It wasn’t until Thursday, when the rain subsided a bit and people were starting to come in from the pueblos, that the fairgrounds came to life. Horses with elegantly dressed riders paraded on the streets, along with carriages carrying women and kids dressed in flamenco dresses. People started to dance Sevillanas on the street and young kids just got big bottles of alcohol and drank outside the caseta. Lucky for me, I have Spanish friends who invited me to their casetas, and other friends of mine had their own invites. One of the socios we met introduced us to his nephew, and he took us out all night to all kinds of casetas. When Kike was working, his two little brothers took us out. I learned to dance the Sevillanas, I spoke a lot of Spanish, and tourists were taking pictures of me as if I were actually Spanish. Super fun. I can’t wait for next year!

Top: Kike and me somewhere…this is probably about 4 am
Bottom: Kelly and I did a photo shoot at Plaza de Espana. People were taking pictures of us!
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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.

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