A Week to Remember

Stella K. is currently a junior at SYA Spain and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts.

One of my favorite parts about SYA so far has been the ability to learn about the culture and it’s tradition through my own experiences instead of just reading about it. Las Fiestas del Pilar is a huge holiday in Spain that lasts from October 9th-17th to celebrate the Virgen del Pilar, the patron saint of Zaragoza, and one of the days overlaps with the national day of Spain. Many people both from Aragon, a region of Spain,  and internationally come to Zaragoza to celebrate. For this holiday SYA Spain had a long weekend with three school days off which is the same as other schools in Zaragoza. 

My first night of Pilar I spent with my host sister Maria who is in her second bachillerato, junior year, and her friends from school. I was a little worried how meeting her friends would be, but the moment I met them they were very friendly to me and were welcoming me to be a part of their conversations and activities. My host sister, our friends, and I went to the feria valdespartera which is a fair they have during Las Fiestas del Pilar. We had a lot of fun riding the attractions, eating churros and other delicacies, and meeting up with my host sister’s friends whom she saw. It was very interesting to see how similar the fairs in Spain are to the ones I am accustomed to in the USA, but also how the social scene was a little different then what I had seen in the USA. To me, it felt like there were a lot more people who knew each other than in the USA and they would talk for a longer period of time when passing. This was really fun because it allowed me to meet and talk with more Spanish teens my age and get to know the social life in Spain better.

Later during my vacation I was able to go to the fair again with friends to ride more rides. We decided to head back to the plaza del Pilar afterwards to see the sunset on the Ebro river. We could hear concerts going on for Pilar in the background which made the moment even more magical. Afterwards we went to the plaza del Pilar for dinner. Being able to explore the city with my friends, see different areas of the city, and try different restaurants is something I value about my experience a lot and you definitely have plenty of time to do so while not feeling like you are on your own. On a different night we went to El Tubo which is an area of Zaragoza known for its tapas and food. Me and three of my friends went to multiple restaurants trying new and different tapas. It was a great opportunity to try new things and practice our Spanish in real life situations. 

On October 12th which is the Feast of La Virgen Del Pilar and one of the most important days of Las Fiestas Del Pilar, I was with my host family and celebrated with them. It was a busy day that went by fast. In the morning I went to see the Ofrenda de Flores, a structure covered in beautiful flowers that has an image of the Virgin on top, in the Plaza del Pilar with my host dad, Miguel. Many people walk through the streets wearing traditional clothing and bring bouquets of flowers. We went to the Alma Mater museum after viewing the Ofrenda de Flores. Going to different museums has helped me learn about the history of Zaragoza and practice my Spanish. At the Alma Mater museum I saw some amazing sculptures and pieces of artwork that were preserved very well. 

After viewing the museum we went back home and had lunch with my whole Española family including some of the cousins.. Throughout the afternoon different family members came over to celebrate and those who lived further away called to wish them a good holiday. It was very sweet seeing how important this holiday is to them and how open they were to having me be a part of this very important holiday. My host family has helped me feel comfortable and become accustomed to Spain both helping with daily activities and odd ones like going to different stores to find a calculator charger. I have been able to meet many of their family members which to me is a very thoughtful gesture and showed how they saw me as a member of their family. Throughout the day our television was on and we could see the procession of people walking to the Ofrenda de Flores along with other segments about Las Fiestas del Pilar. We spent the evening resting from the busy day and watching television in Spanish. This was an opportunity that I will cherish and remember forever since I will most likely not get the chance to celebrate Las Fiestas del Pilar in such an authentic way again. 

I had read about the holiday before experiencing it, but experiencing it for myself has given me such a greater sense and appreciation for it. I was able to learn about the little things that happened like how unimaginably full the tranvias were and how many people traveled to Spain to celebrate the holiday. While many people travel to Zaragoza to experience this festival, I felt as though I gained a deeper understanding and awe of it when I experienced it in a more traditional and authentic way. I saw how Spaniards celebrated the day and got to know the ins and outs of the holiday. I was able to enjoy my time getting to not only see the touristy and more popular attractions but also the smaller events that were equally as remarkable. 

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