I’m a firm believer in the fact that when you study abroad you should take advantage of the city that you’re in. Especially being in Europe, many students feel they have to use every weekend to visit a different country or city instead of getting to know the place in which their studying. While I still hold this view, when my friend invited me to Alicante for the Festival of San Juan, I couldn’t pass it up.
The Bonfires of San Juan is a festival celebrated every year in Alicante, Spain which pays homage to St. John and brings in the summer season with bonfires and fireworks. The locals create elaborate fictional characters to be burnt as effigies in the center of the city. Each structure is rigged with fireworks that when lit set the base of the structure on fire while filling the night sky with lights and sudden booms. In addition to the fireworks, hundreds of people fill the beach and set up impromptu bonfires that dot the coast.
One of my main goals being here was to experience the culture of Spain in an authentic way, and I would say that in Alicante, I did that. The structures were beautiful, the fireworks and the heat that radiated from the fires were exciting and somewhat electric as the crowd cheered, but my favorite part of the weekend was the night on the beach.
We had tried to start a bonfire, but to no avail. So, we wandered the beach and found a group of people that we could join. We met 3 Spaniards who were from the south of Spain and were in Alicante for the same reason as us. Joined by the sole reason of celebrating San Juan, we spoke about the Spanish monarchy, places to see in Spain, and they even told us their experience of being Gypsies in Spain. Of course the music and dancing was fun, but without the people it wouldn’t be anything. The true experience of culture doesn’t come through attending events, but through real conversations and shared moments with those that contribute to the local culture.
With only two weeks left in Spain, it’s dawning on me more and more that I don’t want to leave, not only because there’s still a lot to see, but more so because there are still moments to share.
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