La Mercè: human towers and fire run

Authored by:
Patricia B.

La Mercè is the annual festival of the city of Barcelona in which they celebrate with special activities to observe the Roman Catholic feast day of Our Lady of Mercy, La Mare de Déu de la Mercè in Catalan. One of the ways they celebrate the festival is with human towers. Human towers are quite literally a bunch of people climbing and standing on top of each other in order to be the tallest human structure possible. Competitors have teams of many people from strong men to 5 and 6 year olds who create the top of the structure. This is one of the popular competitions that Barcelona teams partake in.

So naturally, I had to see this. I got off at the Metro stop and already I had trouble moving. So many people! There were so many festivities taking place all over the city. I waited next to a cafe for a friend and then we were off in the narrow streets of Barcelona. On this particularly hot day, we squeezed ourselves around crowds of people, trying to fight our way into the plaza center. Finally we weaved through enough people into the opening of the plaza center. PACKED! We could barely move. We found a semi-open spot and watched amongst the thousands of people in the crowds as the teams started to create a human base for their human tower. Slowly they built themselves into a tall human structure. As they got taller and skinnier, we saw the kids start to shimmy their way to the top and we saw the tower start to sway a little. The concentrated silence from the crowd showed the amazement and worried excitement of the crowd. Finally a girl no older than 6 climbed up the backs of people to the very top. She raised her hand when she got to the top to show that she had achieved the feat and quickly slid down the backs of her fellow team members. My friend and I decided to separate from the crowd and meet up with some more friends that were somewhere in the crowd. Again we weaved through crowds of people packed together in the hot morning sun. We decided to get  some gelato at a local shop. ¡Delicioso!

The next day La Merce was in full swing. After lunch I went to the fire run. The fire run is a tradition for La Merce. People dress up in devils costumes and dance down the street with sparklers and fire that looks like tnt. They spray the people in fire as they dance down the street. They dance towards the “devils gate,” which is basically a grand gate that is displayed at the end of the street.I loved seeing the fire and the dancing devils. It was very intense at times because of the amount of fire, the crowds of people, and the drums. You could feel the energy throughout your body. It was a surreal experience. At one point the “devils” pointed the fire straight at my friends and I. After that, we definitely avoided it. We decided to meet up with some friends and have dinner. 

Written by Amanda Duvall

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