So, it’s all over for another year. Tonight its the last night of the Feria de Sevilla, although most Sevillanos haven’t been since Friday – the weekend is for the foraneos (outsiders); much fewer women dress up in their trajes de flamenca, and the atmosphere is quite different. It’s hard to get across the spirit of the Feria to someone who’s never been before. So, for those who haven’t, I’ll just chuck out a few thoughts to give you an idea, a sense, a hint of what it’s like.
Carriages with drivers in red velvet jackets and highwayman’s scarves on their heads; other drivers top-hatted and besuited; ladies in frilly flamenca dresses riding side-saddle on a horse behind their man (sexist? yup); young boys perched atop horses they look far too small to control; acres of little stripey tents, sauna-like in the heat, packed with people talking, laughing, eating, drinking, dancing; women swirling around the dance floor, hands aloft, wrists twirling seductively, tossing their hair. Sipping ice-cold, pale gold-coloured manzanilla (dry sherry) and snacking on plates of jamon, queso and gambas.
And the frocks: this year, the traje de flamenca continued last year’s trend for fringed shawls sewn into the neckline of their dresses; there were some short (knee-length) dresses; and the little coloured bobbles which decorate horses’ bridles appeared on the hems of some dresses. Tiny shawls, more like necklaces, whose fringes hang down from the neck over the decolletage, were also big on the streets of the real this year again, having made their debut at Feria 2010.
The are two ferias; daytime, with horses and carriages, horseriders (jinete=man, amazona=woman); boys in dashing mini-jinete outfits – cropped jackets, red sashes and trousers, little girls in dresses to match mama’s, riding side-saddle.
At night time, the farollilas, the little paper lanterns strung along the pavements of the streets, are lit up, as is the portada (gateway), and the noria (big wheel) in the Calle de Infierno, the area of attracciones – rides and bumper cars. And the streets are heaving with people talking, dancing etc – even more so this year, the first when smoking has not been allowed in the casetas. So a second social scene has been born, outside the casetas, where smokers congregate and block up the pavement.
And what’s it all for? I hear you ask. Well, it started out as a cattle fair in the 19th century, but any excuse for a get-together, from livestock to the Virgin, always becomes a party in Spain. In the 1950s, Princess Grace, Ernest Hemingway and Rita Hayworth used to come. Now it’s a place to see your friends, do a little business, strengthen family ties (if you have a family member who has a caseta, which are nearly always shared between a number of socios, then it’s effectively yours too). I know couples who have met at the Feria – nothing like a sherry-soaked twirl on the dance floor, turning your back on someone and then grabbing them for a bit of heavy flirtation. There are those who hate it, who never come, because they see it as too exclusive – you can’t get into a caseta without an invitation. And to have a caseta, you have to be, well, comfortably off, let’s say. The banks get busy before Feria, as socios ask for loans so they can to put on a good show as host.