La Mercè shines bright drawing 1.4 million people

Figures are up on 2018 as embodiment of Catalan culture once again draws the crowds

La Mercè lived up to expectations once again in Catalonia (by Ajuntament de Barcelona)
La Mercè lived up to expectations once again in Catalonia (by Ajuntament de Barcelona) / Oliver Little

Oliver Little | Barcelona

September 25, 2019 01:44 PM

The Barcelona Council has confirmed that their party of the year was indeed their party of the year. Over 1.4 million people attended La Mercè, an increase on the 1.3 million in 2018. 

Once again, its array of concerts was the crowd attraction. Nearly a third of all party-goers - some 400,000 - attended one of the many of concerts across six Barcelona districts. Highlights included Catalan rock legend Pau Riba and electronic group “Caza Azul”. 

The opening of electro-pop group Caza Azul's gig (by Pere Francesch)

Meanwhile, over 250,000 people were drawn to the 430 Street Art shows and exhibitions, which included a programme in the Parc de la Trinitat dedicated to African artists.

A ball from Beirut

There were several events centered around the city of Beirut, the guest city for this year’s festival. Through films, performing arts and music dedicated and centered around the Lebanon capital, Barcelona overflowed with the city’s creative energy.

Perhaps the highlight of the multiple shows by Lebanese artists in the Parc de la Ciutadella, Passeig de Lluís Companys and the Avinguda de la Catedral was the “Beirut Night” programme, in which the iconic Parc de la Ciutadella was transformed through Beirut-themed lights, dancing and music. For this reason, Parc de la Ciutadella was among the post popular attractions of the whole festival with over 175,000 visitors. 

Catalan culture shares centre stage

There were several examples of Catalan culture on offer that also proved very popular with locals and tourists alike. 

Among highlights was Saturday’s correfocs run. An all too familiar tradition in Catalonia, in the “tabalada infernal,” devils paraded down the streets of Via Laietana spouting fire. 

Other notable parades included the parade of giants and the “big heads” parade. Both are longstanding Catalan traditions, and both are exactly what they say on the tin - giants, and big heads. The parade of giants from the Plaça de Àngels to the Plaça de Sant Jaume was one of the standout events on Monday, the festival’s quietest day. 

Giants were among several Catalan traditions at the festival (by Aina Martí)

Visual spectacles 

The parade on Monday was the precursor to the Plaça de Sant Jaume’s light show, a spectacle that spans the long weekend every year. 

This year was a homage to Catalan poet, playwright, graphic designer and visual artist Joan Brossa. The spectacle, directed by Mitos Colom and Javi Cadavieco, captured the visual artistry and creativity for which Brossa was so renowned.  

The spectacle, with the letter “A” as the protagonist in celebration of Any Brossa, one hundred years after his birth, and the three chapters of Birth, Path and Destruction addressed books and poetry, but also delved into the imaginative and often inexplicable visions that go with it. The most surrealist vision of all was a top hat depicted chasing a boiled egg, which would have left viewers less familiar with his work somewhat flummoxed. 

The festival was brought to a close with a bang or two on Tuesday night with its annual fireworks display in the Plaça de Espanya. A mix of Catalan cultural songs, pop hits, and music dedicated to Beirut and the spectacular Magic Fountain accompanied around 40 minutes of explosions that lit up the skies of Montjuïc.

A highlight for many spectators was a tribute to the Beatles, which, (as do most Beatles-related occasions) turned into something of a karaoke session for the 90,000-strong crowd in the square.

Party’s over folks, so what’s left?

If you’re struggling after a mid-week public holiday, and/or carrying an extra pound or two after a weekend of eating and drinking, La Mercè has the perfect solution. 

Embrace your inner dancing devil and go through hell in the famous 10km run on Sunday, September 29. If you feel worse for wear and are unsure, just remember, there are 1.4 million people that probably feel the same.