Did something happen?
Did nothing happen, and we need to make something happen?
Do we have more than 4 non-holiday days this week?
La Mercé seems to be largely about #2. It was began in 1871 when the government organized activities to observe the feast day of Our Lady of Mercy.
According to Google Image, this is Our Lady of Mercy:
The whole thing has evolved to be the largest and longest festival in the area. Per usual, I did not understand the significance of any event going on around me, the most notable of which were:
Giant paper maché people-costumes worn by regular non-maché people in constant parades around the city. I probably ran into 15 of these parades in the course of 3 days. I don't know who they are. I don't know where they are going. I don't know why. One was a serpent woman with bare breasts and a crown. She was followed by a french man with a latern. I do not know that story. I am missing something.
The Correfoc would never happen in the United States because it would be really illegal and people would probably die. In the United States, fireworks are illegal in most places. If you wish to purchase the awesome ones made in China (duh), you often must travel across borders and borders to purchase them. If you buy said awesome one made in China (duh), you go home, call your neighbors over, stand a safe distance back while the least-liked family member is bestowed the 'honor' of lighting the thing. Then your mom says she doesn't think this is a good idea. Then you say “Don't worry mom, it's only Dad,” and, yeah, she admits you have a pretty fair point. Then it explodes, and everyone is like 'Whoa did you see that one that like, shot out to the side,' and then you are like 'Yeah, I did!' and then you all look at it and are like 'Cool!'.
It's pretty fabulous.
At the Correfoc they just light fireworks at you in a 3 hour barrage-parade. If you aren't a tourist, then you know it is a good idea to wear clothes that cover your hair and skin and exposed areas. If you are a tourist, you're an idiot and no one likes you anyway. One of my friends burned his eye and went home.
The fireworks-aggressors come in waves. They are followed by really intense drummers wading through thick foggy smoke and screaming and a million little kids who are way more daring than you and run around in the fire like it ain't no thang, while their mothers smile wanly and smoke cigarettes. It's incredibly loud too, kind of sounds like really really abrasive bubble wrap intermittent with a lot of people yelling and coughing.
It's totally awesome.
No, I'm not even kidding, it's totally awesome. We could only handle it for about an hour, then our ears were bleeding and we left. We could see it from far away, though, glowing kind of like you would think Really Intense Riots get.
That first wave of fire-dudes, it kind of makes you nervous. I have not been exposed to a lot of other situations where men dressed in devil costumes run at me waving sticks spewing fire that will Obviously Kill Me with a bunch of people screaming and yelling in a language I don't Comprendo. Maybe because I can't understand anyone, but it seems most Spanish festivals are some version of “Fun Ways to Have a Riot!”. Festivals make me nervous.
I have no idea what the Correfoc means or why it exists, but I hopped around in fire energized and terrified and totally ignorant.
Another way they celebrate this festival is by making human castles:
That is a 7 year old child on top.
I think festivals are the Spanish way to prune the child population in a cheap, effective, fun, and not totally obvious way.