By Rhianna Stepien
Whether walking around el Río Guadalquivir with gelato on a sunny afternoon or staying out until seven in the morning after eating some post-discoteca churros con chocolate, there is no place more charming than Sevilla, Spain. In the southern region of the country, it holds the true essence of Andalusia. With a culture so distinct, spending four months in Sevilla provided countless opportunities for a true immersion into Spanish life. Out of all of these, my favorite will forever be Feria.
Feria, or Feria de Abril, is a festival that occurs in April that lasts six days that first began in 1847. Since 1973, it has taken place at an area specifically designated for Feria that covers more than 24 blocks. They line the streets with decorations and over 1,000 casetas, or small tents, which can be public or private and allow for many activities such as dancing sevillanas, drinking delicious rebujitos, eating traditonal tapas and more. Each day begins with a parade of carriages and riders, and the celebrations don’t end until six or seven the next morning. Alongside of the casetas there lays a fairground, covered with rides and all of the greasy and fun fair food one could possibly imagine.
The first night of Feria is la noche del pescaíto, or the night of the fish, and it starts with the lighting of la portada, or the gate, which stands tall in the middle of the casetas, small tents where Sevillanos dance, drink and eat. It’s part of a competition to get to design the gate and it’s one of the greatest honors to be selected. There’s a massive crowd waiting for the lights to turn on and Feria to start with cheering and dancing. It’s a truly magical way to kick off the biggest festival of the year.
In order to truly participate in Feria, you have to dress the part. For this festival, everyone dresses up in their best. Men wear trajes cortos, or short suits, and women and girls wear elaborate, fashionable flamenco dresses. Despite the dresses being altered where you can barely breathe, you could find women of all ages going on rides in dresses they couldn’t even sit in. Luckily, my study abroad program brought in some used dresses and I bought one and had it tailored just for the festival. I even stuffed my dress into an extra backpack afterwards just so I could bring it back home with me; it will forever be my most precious souvenir from Sevilla.
The social aspect of Feria is also very important. Friends and families alike attend the festival together and I was able to spend a memorable night with one of my host-brothers, his friend and my wonderful host parents. My host mom, about half my height, took me to a caseta and danced with me for hours, trying to teach me the ways of dancing sevillanas like she was taught when she was a little girl. She knew every single step.
Sevilla, Spain will forever hold a special place in my heart. It is a city full with charm, culture and magic. Feria is the festival of a lifetime, and you can’t find it anywhere else in the world.