They say that for most of the year the residents in a place called Gràcia live a quiet (though perhaps somewhat bohemian) life. Once upon a time, their neighborhood was a village situated just outside of Barcelona. Grácia is now part of that big city but when August rolls around, they once again set themselves apart. For the past 196 years, residents and visitors have delighted in displays of hedonism and revelry during the Festes de Grácia.
Local resident councils choose a theme each year determining how they will embellish their street, square or balcony in what becomes a serious competition with other neighbors throughout Gràcia. The theme remains a closely guarded secret as they work together for months to assemble their decorations—from the whimsical to the bizarre—and plan for the festival’s eight days of raucous merrymaking.
Throughout the event, any stroll down Gràcia’s narrow streets will present a new surprise. Children perch on their parent’s shoulders waving kerchiefs in the air. Lines of people sway to a parade of drums. Mojitos, caipirinhas, claras and cerveza are sold at every turn. Plazas are filled with music and handicrafts and tapas. Every bench, every table is filled.
If this were not enough, the courageous people of Grácia are determined to scale even greater heights—literally—by building human towers. Broad-shouldered men cluster on the bottom, followed by the lithe and limber and, at the very top, small children raising their arms high. As many as 7 or 8 people are stacked, standing, one on top of the other.
The festival concludes with an outrageous evening fire run. Teams of drummers march through the streets accompanied by devils wielding pitch forks. Serpentine fire-breathing animals chase the masses, spewing sparklers and light.
All of this to bring the community of Vila de Gràcia together, uphold traditions, and rejoice during the hot hot hot final days of summer.