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This articule was written by "Texican"

"La Merced," the day of parade and festival of Barcelona's patron saint, sounds like it should be a relaxing evening. But in reality, " La Merced" demonstrates a recurring theme in Spanish festivals found in many and varied forms: the struggle between life and death.

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The events of “La Merced” begin rather innocently, with the passing from time to time of a group of somewhat seductively but well costumed dancers, female devils
, safely encapsulated in obviously Star-War proof bubbles. All afternoon,  the early evening's musical entertainment and Catalunian folk dancing shows have been taking place, in the many plazas of the old city, and from time to time the female devils arrive.
As darkness descends, the once occasional explosions of fireworks in the distance become more frequent and as night arrives, the expectations of the crowd are noticeably rising.

The tranquility of the afternoon, spent leisurely having a few snacks and glasses of wine in the many sidewalk cafes, is suddenly broken by a few fireworks. The occasional distant explosions increase as the evening progresses, when suddenly they are harshly broken by a rapidly rising crescendo of the ever-approaching fireworks, with accompanying flashes of light that soon become what must be reminiscent of Napoleon's battle at Waterloo.
As you quickly try to pay the bill and get over to see what is going on, loud bangs begin echoing between the castle walls, and blinding flashes of light reflect around the plaza.
The acrid smell of burnt sulfur and gunpowder signal the advance of something that .... could only live in hell? The air flashes of light and sparks as your visual senses are overloaded with what becomes an incessant invasion of monstrous dragons raging fire from their nostrils and demons exploding fireworks from their mouths in all directions as they spiral around in the plaza.

Not one, many monster demons enter from the street and each is followed by his own army of damned souls, all running, screaming, drumbeating, subservient devils numbering in hundreds, thousands or maybe, or at least what seemed to be, hundreds of thousands.

These devils are not content to simply follow their demon masters in an orderly procession of banishment from the old city. They are on one last hell-bent mission to terrorize the innocents and instill everlasting fear in all those that only wished to peacefully observe their orderly and controlled exodus from the city.

These devils intend to make the most of their last appearance in Barcelona and won't stop raining their fire on the crowds until they are sure that everyone will remember their evil powers and that they may have lost the battle, but not the war. Terror on the now fleeing crowds ahead and especially on the previously unsuspecting tourists that haphazardly strayed into the plaza to find out what all the excitement was about.it is now more than obvious. All that are in the way of the devil's path are cowering from the hot sparks spewing into the air, covering their hair and anything else they think might readily catch fire, while they try to avoid the explosions at the demon's feet. Those in the wake of the advancing army with their flashing wands, form tiny shadows in the fiery glow of the circles of tracers and sparks, disappearing into the smoke as the marching army of a thousand devils trail behind. For those foolish enough to be caught in the devil's attack, the firecracker bombs exploding from the trailing army are unbearable and echo between the ears of anyone overeagerly venturing in too close, for that one chance of a memorable photograph which will prove that they valiantly braved the mayhem of hell and lived to tell about it. Unfortunately, the fear on their face is also evident as they make a hasty retreat from their last vantage point, which has been overcome with sulfurous fire and smoke, and run to anywhere that looks like it may offer a safe haven. The feverish level of terror grows in the surrounding crowd as the devils scream their merciless cries and threats to the rhythm of drumbeats in the night air.

After many hours of the incessant wailing, drums and explosions, finally, the last of the devils are forced to flee in advance of the saints; their ultimate exodus from the center of the city, as they are once and for all banished from the remnants of the old castle walls... until next year.
Don't miss it. Around the 3rd weekend in September.

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Information and photographs for this article provide by "Texican", who is also the copyright owner.

This page last updated in November of 2005