Sant Pere (Saint Peter) is the patron saint of my host town, Reus. Like the celebrations of Saint John’s feast day, this day is widely celebrated throughout the city despite the decreased importance placed on religion. On this day, June 29, many people from Reus gather in the town square to celebrate. I was lucky enough to attend a part of this celebration with some of my new friends.
When I arrived at the town’s main plaza at 9:30, a large crowd had already formed around the center of the square. Fireworks were set up in the middle, and the policemen peacefully controlled the mob from getting too close. A couple of minutes after arriving, a parade started, forming a pathway around the crowd on the opposite side of the fireworks. From my position, I could see the parade to the right, and the firework setup to my left. Here, I had a great view of this annual tradition.
The first part of the parade was the Camino de los Gigantes (giants). Giants from different cultures around the world led the way for the rest of the parade, signifying that Reus had its own separate culture which added something unique to the cultures in the rest of the world. There were Chinese giants, Indian giants, Northern European giants, African giants, Spanish giants, and more, including a Giant from the city of Reus. One person was in charge of wearing each giant costume for the parade. Also, each giant was led by a couple of people who helped with clearing a path in the crowd and making sure the giants walked in the right directions. Each giant was about 10-12 feet tall, making it easy to see them even for a shorter person in the crowd.
The next procession in the parade was the Baile de Palos (Stick Dance). Boys and girls, aged 12-15, danced in circles, hitting wooden walking sticks together to the beat of a tune. They were all very focused on their responsibilities for the dance, but at the same time, you could tell that they were really enjoying their time. Their faces were bright with the excitement of the night and the pride in their woSanrk.
After the Baile de Palos, the Van de los Barcos (translated as The Ships go) performed their act. Men dressed up as sailors put on a wooden ship costume and walked down the street, rocking the ships up and down as if the ships were actually sailing on the water. This dance celebrated the history of Reus with the Mediterranean Sea because of Reus’ proximity.
Following the dance of the ships, girls and boys with decorated wooden hoops danced a folk dance in the Baile de los Aros (Hoop dance). Much like the Baile de Palos, dancers in this dance were very proud of their city, and they reflected this sentiment on their bright faces. The boys and the girls traded off from dancing in circles around each other. And, when the parade advanced forward, this act moved in turns, skipping through the street in zig-zag fashion.
The last act was one of my favorites, the Torre (Tower). This tower consisted of seven or eight grown men, and a child. The strongest man stands on the bottom, supported by many other people lending their arms to add protection. Then, six or seven strong but lighter men stand on top of their shoulders, until the tower is about three stories tall. A child around the age of 12, with a helmet of course, climbs up this tower until the top, where he stands on the shoulders of the tallest man. This tower definitely ended the parade with a bang, not a whimper. The crowd went wild, cheering on the tower with claps and shouts of encouragement.
After all of the acts of the parade performed, people filled this street (the one to my right) in order to be closer to the fireworks and firecrackers. The mayor and councilmen of the city appeared above the square in their office building, and gave the sign of waving a white handkerchief for the lighting off of the works. As they did this, many from the crowd whistled at them, signifying their disagreement and anger towards the Spanish government (Read my Catalonian argument for reasons for this aggravation). After this sign, a domino of firecrackers lit off from the surroundings of the center, proceeded by fireworks from the very center of the square. It was, needless to explain in further detail, both loud and a bit scary. Pretty awesome.
After the fireworks, my friend and I went to a nearby restaurant to eat dinner, much like many others in the square. After dinner, people of all ages went to outside bars to drink coffee or other beverages, until around 3 in the morning, when public concerts started in one of the town’s plazas. As I had to work the next day, I thought it prudent not to go to the concerts and return home early. But for me, the rich culture displayed in the parade made my night. So many of the people participated in the parade by clapping and singing. Everyone seemed proud that they were Catalonians from Reus, and they wanted to show this pride in participation. It was a celebration that seemed very special because it was specific to this one city.
Initially, I did not really have a reason for choosing this city beyond feeling comfortable with my host family over Skype. But I am eternally grateful for having chosen this city because I have been able to witness a European city which has preserved its unique traditions and ways of life over many years.
Jessica De Gree
Jessica plays basketball professionally in Spain and teaches English as a second language. She recently received her Bachelor's degree from Hillsdale College, one of the nation's top Liberal Arts schools in MI. At Hillsdale, she played basketball and studied English and Spanish. Some of her hobbies include reading, writing, painting, surfing, and playing the piano.