By Linda Harris
By Linda Harris
Morocco World News
Barcelona, March 4, 2012
It began very early in the morning. Before the break of dawn, loud drumming and fireworks marked the beginning of the Catalan festival “Fiesta de Sant Medir”. My children woke up to remind me of what the drums had already conveyed – The traditional event had started, as pilgrims began their day-long pre-dawn treck to a small sanctuary in the mountains. In 12 hours, they would come back, and celebrations would over-take our small neighborhood. Another adventure had begun in the city by the sea.
Barcelona, located in North East Spain, is easily reached from many Moroccan cities. The Moroccan owned Royal Air Maroc and Air Arabia have daily flights from Morocco to Barcelona. Multiple discount airlines offer round trip airfare online at prices as low as 50 Euro from cities such as Marrakech, Agadir, Fez, and Casablanca. The flight time from most cities is around 2 hours, and there is a 1 hour time zone difference. Include a quick 1 hour commute from any of three Barcelona airports to your city destination and you are ready for a Catalan vacation.
The festival – “Fiesta de Sant Medir” – takes place every year on the 3rd of March. It is a local festival, in the Barcelona district of Gràcia. This festival is also known as “La festa més dolça” – “the Sweetest Festival” because, believe it or not, more than 100 tons of sweets are given away at the parade. A mere 150 years ago, Gràcia was a cozy and small village with no direct connection to Barcelona. After the city annexation, it became part of ‘big-city’ life, but retained many of its traditions, including wonderful cafes, small town squares, shops, and two colorful annual festivals. Sant Medir is one of them.
Moroccan immigrants make up more than 1.5% of the Spanish population and Barcelona is home to many thousands of Moroccan citizens. Subsequently, many Moroccans come here every year for vacation or family visits. Perhaps most famous for it’s world class football club FC Barcelona, the city is also a popular destination for tourists who want to enjoy the beautiful beaches, culture, night-life, and cuisine. Moroccans visiting Barcelona will quickly recognize that the Catalan language is filled with Arabic words and phrases. Some say that many parts of Barcelona remind them of home. The traces of the Arabic Empire’s influence during the Middle Ages are still apparent here. One particularly interesting feature of the Gràcia district is the pervasive Arabic influence in Catalan arthitecture that can be seen on almost every street. As an example, Gaudi’s first Barcelona piece is in Gràcia; the Casa Vicens, which is decorated in traditional Arabic ornamentation.
As the clock neared 20:00, which is the official start time of the parade, we rushed by Gaudi’s famous building to join the festival crowds. We took up positions in a narrow street running from the larger Gran Via de Gràcia; the point where the parade began. We waited for about 20 minutes as people gathered in anticipation, and just as the smaller children began to be impatient, it started. Led by a colorful drum line of Samba drummers, the 1 ½ hour long procession of open-bed truck, endless rows of horses, carriages, donkey-carts, hundreds of drummers, and uniform glad Catalan officials began its red and yellow candy parade down through Gràcia.
Initially satisfied to let the children have candy, I stood back to offer more room for the little ones. But this is not how the Catalan have their celebrations. Here, children and adults alike take part in the candy fest. Old great grandmothers and fathers held out their bags alongside their great grand children. Retired elderly held hands with small children as they stood together on the back of trucks and threw candy. Above us, the balconies were filled with dancing residents who laughingly hoisted baskets and upsidedown umbrellas down onto the street on long ropes to catch some of the sweetness. All around us, candy rained down like sweets from Heaven. Never have I, in all my life, seen so much candy. The squeals of joy from a mass of children filled the air as Samba music mixed with the voices of laughing adults. Although open drinking is legal in Spain, I saw not a single bottle of alcohol. Not one person pushed for room or fought over the sugared gifts. There was plenty for all and we were safe. Everyone were simply joyous from the mix of parade and good giving; it was a true family event, as the entire neighborhood came together as one unit – making it an experience not to be missed on a trip to Barcelona.
As we walked home, we turned one time to wave goodbye to the parade and yell a loud “Gracias Gràcia” to the buildings. Carrying large bags of candy, we laughed as small bits of candy kept falling to the ground with every step we took. Little bits of sweetness had hidden in our pockets, hats and hair.
Spain, like the rest of the world, is contending with an extremly weakend economy. Familes have lost and suffered through this time. But for one night, everyone allowed themselves to forget their troubles and just enjoy. It spread cheer throughout the district and it spread joy for all of Barcelona. In times of trouble, are when families and neighborhoods should come together. This is the way in Spain as it is in Morocco. This commonality of charity is reflected in the festival and is an important feature of a Spanish visit. If a future family vacation is on the horizon in the month of March, join the parade, and make it a sweet one.
 “Población extranjera por sexo, país de nacionalidad y edad (hasta 85 y más).”, Avance del Padrón a 1 de enero de 2009. Datos provisionales, Spain: Instituto Nacional de Estadística, 2009
Linda Harris was born in Copenhagen, Denmark. After completing high-school, Ms Harris emigrated to the United States where she has lived since and continues to have a home. She has a BA in Psychology with minors in Religion and Philosophy, Magna cum Laude, from the University of North Florida. She also holds a MA in Practical Philosophy and Applied Ethics from the University of North Florida. Ms. Harris has worked as an Instructor and has taught Philosophy to students at Daytona State College, Florida for 3 years, as well as International Relations Theory at the University of Florida. She is currently working on her PhD in Philosophy, which involves data collection and research in Morocco. Her research includes ethics of gender, religion, and cultural identity in Morocco and in Moroccan immigrant communities. She currently resides in Spain. She Is Morocco World News correspondent in Spain.
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