About Seville Spain
In the south of Spain, the vibrant city of Seville sprawls across both banks of the River Guadalquiver. It is the heart and the capital of the Andalucia (or Andalusia, in English) Region. Seville has a 3000 year old history, and the alluring, ever present customs and culture recognized today that embody deep seeded Moorish and Castillian routes.
History of (Feria de abril) Spring Fair in Seville
The first Feria celebrations were held at Prado de San Sebastian, which is not too far from the exquisite Maria Luisa Park. In 1847, it began as a three day event showcasing local farmers’ cattle. There were only three casetas (tents) set up, and these were provided for the city officials and noble attendees. By the 1920’s, Feria had transformed into the grand spectacle that is observed today.
Seville‚Äôs Spring Fair is now held on the other side of the River Guadalquiver, in a district known as Barrio de los Remedios. Upon the arrival of Feria, the entire city shuts down so that everyone can partake in the six days of festivities. The event takes place each year in the third week after Easter and following Semana Santa (Holy Week). Today you will find over 1000 casetas lined up throughout the fairgrounds, and many are private (belonging to families and businesses). If you are fortunate enough to receive an invite to one of the private casetas, don‚Äôt let the rare opportunity pass you by. Don’t worry if you don‚Äôt receive an exclusive invitation from anyone because there are 7 public tents set up. Each day processions are lead by horses, carriages, and Sevillanos (residents of Seville) dressed in traditional traje de gitana (gypsy attire). They are en route to one of the bull fights that are held daily at the Plaza de Toros. As if there wasn‚Äôt enough going on during Feria, children and adults alike can enjoy carnival rides that run morning to evening; these are located in an area adjacent to the casetas, which is referred to as La Calle del Infierno (Hell’s Road).
Casetas, After the Sun Sets
Things really begin to liven up in the casetas in the evenings. The grand, arched portada (entrance) to the fair grounds is lit with over 20,000 individual bulbs, and suspended over the sandy walkways between the tents; lighting the way are thousands of glowing paper lanterns. Manzanilla (Jerez sherry) flows freely from the individual bars situated within the tents and tapas (small portioned meals, like appetizers) are also served. Women wear brightly colored, bold patterned Flamenco dresses and in contrast to the kaleidoscope of rufflels swathed ensembles, the men sport more muted tones with their trajes cortos (suits consisting of short jackets, riding pants, boots, and wide brimmed hats, similar to what the cattle farmers would have worn in the 1800s). The sound of live folk music strums through each caseta, and it is accompanied by Sevillanas (traditional dance) until the early morning hours.
Do you know that Sevillanas is not Flamenco?
Although there are similarities between the two dance genres, do be aware of their differences. Sevillanas actually originated from Castile and not Seville, as one might easily assume. Flamenco is generally performed without a dance partner. Sevillanas necessitates the presence of two people, and the motions are precise, whereas Flamenco is a dancer’s free expression, comprised of improvised steps.
¬°Viva la Feria!
To experience Feria in Seville is an experience that gives a glimpse into the very soul of authentic, southern Spain. If possible, it is best to learn some of the basic movements of Sevillanas before hitting the casetas, and there are plenty of beginner dance classes that are offered throughout the Andalucia Region. If you would really like to look the part, Flamenco dresses are sold at many of the larger clothing stores in Spain. You will want to book airfare to Seville well in advance because Feria is one of the city’s largest festivities of the year.