Las Fiestas del Pilar

Josie B. is currently a junior at SYA Spain and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Lakeside School in Washington.

It has been over a month here in Zaragoza, and I could not think up a better way to celebrate this milestone than with Las Fiestas del Pilar. Las Fiestas start on the Saturday before the 12th and end the following Sunday, and the energy prevails all eight days and all eight nights (trust me- my house is in the city’s center, so I can tell you from my sleep deficiency that the noise does not die down).

On the first night, Saturday, I went to El Pregón, the event that marks the beginning of Pilares. Every year, there is a speaker who present to the tens of thousands of people gathered at the Plaza del Pilar. This year, a few women spoke about feminism and women's empowerment, and although my current level of Spanish language proficiency is low, I did catch the end when everybody chanted: “No es no! No es no! No es no!”  

The next few days, I went to class and did homework (oh right, school) and had a PSAT somewhere in there. We got Thursday and Friday off, so I went to Las Vaquillas with my host grandpa where we watched young men get attacked by cows in a large arena called La Plaza de Los Toros. Later on Thursday, I walked through the artisan market, something that only runs for the eight days of Pilares; there were at least seventy “puestos” or stands of handmade jewelry, accessories, food, clothing and more.  On Friday, I went to the fair and won a stuffed unicorn by hitting three small balloons with darts, and on the last night, I went out with my host sister and her friends to Espacio Zity, a large dome for concerts, where most of the locals hang out.

As much as it felt just like a week-long party, Pilares are not only for fun. They are celebrated in honor of the patron saint of the city, La Virgen del Pilar. On the 12th and 13th, offerings of flowers and food were made to La Virgen. The locals and citizens of the Aragon region lined up and paraded in traditional outfits, carrying flowers on the 12th and food on the 13th. The only requirement to partake is to wear traditional clothing from your region, and my host family was kind enough to offer me an outfit of theirs so that I wasn’t left out of the special day. It was stunning to see how many people dressed up and participated in the flowering offerings, baking in the sun in four or more layers of tight, itchy, fragile clothing but continuing to chat and smile. Those who lined up to offer waited an average of three hours to add their flowers to the mantel in the center of the plaza. The first of the offerings was made at 6:45 in the morning and the offerings continued for over fourteen hours. I feel lucky to have witnessed and been included in such a special, sacred ceremony.

The mix between festivity and religiousness in this past week of festivities was captivating. Whether it is dressing in silk ankle skirts and praying to Our Lady of Pilar or headbanging to Chenoa all night, everything here in Zaragoza is done with passion and devotion. The festive, faithful, welcoming culture continues to blow me away every day.  

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