The Festival You Never Knew You'd Love: Las Fiestas del Pilar
Spain, as you may well know, is a country full of folks who love to have a good time. Every weekend, you can find throngs of people in the discotecas, merrily tossing back chupitos and fist-pumping to EDM until the early hours of the morning.
However, during the first week of October, the entire city of Zaragoza was enjoying a celebration of its own, Las Fiestas del Pilar. An amazing festival that brought in not only people from all over Aragón, but every corner of Spain! The merriment was not limited to the confines of the nightclubs — instead it could be found everywhere in town, during all hours of the day.
The Fiestas are held in honor of the Virgen del Pilar. According to legend, James, the Apostle of Jesus, came to the Iberian shortly after the Resurrection to preach the Gospel but his mission was becoming a failure and he grew increasingly frustrated. One day, while praying on the banks of the River Ebro, Mary, the mother of Jesus, appeared to him upon a pillar (the Pilar) surrounded by angels, and she assured him that the people would be convertedand their faith would be as strong as the pillar on which she stood. From that moment on, she became Zaragoza’s patron saint.
During the festival, there are a wide variety of events put on by both the city and private organizations: bullfights, concerts, Zumba marathons, you name it! Here are my Top 5 favorite experiences from the Fiestas del Pilar.
Experiencing the jota
Not to be confused with the letter of the Spanish alphabet, jota is the traditional folkloric song and dance of Aragón — think flamenco, but happier and with more string instruments and high kicks!
Enjoying less-than-traditional music
Throughout the Fiestas, there are dozens of opportunities to enjoy *free* concerts from performers ranging from national chart-toppers, like Malú and David de María, to humble, locally-known acts, such as Héctor Peréz and Antílope León. My favorite performance by far was the one given by Trajano, a Madrid-based garage/surf rock/post-punk band, on the last night of the festival in the Plaza del Justicia — endless amounts of energy!
Embracing my inner-child at the fair
As with every other major Spanish festival, one can enjoy the distinct atmosphere of lights, excitement, and heart-attack-inducing food that only the fairgrounds can offer. I didn’t actually ride anything, but I did enjoy my first gofre (waffle)!
Going back to where it all began
During the Pilares, I made time to visit and admire the Basílica of the Virgen and I can assure you that the building more than lives up to the hype surrounding it.
Being wowed by the pyrotechnics over the Ebro
Traditionally, everything ends with a display of fireworks over the Río Ebro. Now, I’ve been to pyrotechnical shows before but none of them could be compared to the ones that closed the festival — over-the-top, yet magnificent, nonetheless.
In closing, I would say that experiencing Las Fiestas del Pilar was like riding a huge playground roundabout. It’s definitely disorienting with all the commotion, excitement and throngs of people, but even so, it’s still extremely fun!
Betty is a 21-year old recent graduate from Wake Forest University who recently moved to Zaragoza, Spain (in the region of Aragón) as an auxiliar de conversación (English Teaching Assistant). When she's not writing entries for this site and throwing back tapas at the bars in El Tubo, she can be found writing about her ramblings and observations on her personal blog, The Pumpkin's Head.