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How to celebrate Barcelona’s La Mercè fiesta in 2020

Despite COVID-19 restrictions, Barcelona is still celebrating its annual festival, La Mercè, a celebration that runs between September 23rd until September 27th.

How to celebrate Barcelona's La Mercè fiesta in 2020
Reskatestudio have designed the posters for this year.

La Mercè is a bank holiday in Barcelona which means a day off work for many as schools, offices as well as most businesses will be closed on the day of September 24th, though many restaurants and bars remain open. 

But of course, because of the coronavirus pandemic, this year the festival will see some changes, with some events requiring reservations and others that have been shifted online.

So what’s dfferent this year?

Barcelona has made several modifications to the festival’s usual format due to current health restrictions, but there’s still plenty to do and see, with over 350 free activities over four days, including concerts, plays, exhibits, and lots more.

The festival is more decentralized than previous years to avoid crowds, with smaller shows and events in all of Barcelona’s ten districts. 

Reservations are required for many of the shows, and Catalan station betevé will be streaming part of the festivities on television and on its website

Instead of a single fireworks show, organizers have decided to hold four simultaneous fireworks displays to avoid crowds, which they say should be visible from most balconies and terraces in the city. Accompanying music will be available on TV3. 

La Mercè’s 2020 guest city, La Havana, has agreed to postpone its participation to 2021. Instead, the festival this year focuses on local artists, with more than 150 dance, street art, and circus troupes performing. 

Festivities begin Thursday morning and continue through the weekend. You can see the full event list and make reservations here.

History

La Mercè started as a religious celebration in honor of the Virgin of La Mercè, one of Barcelona’s two patron saints, in 1868. 

The festival began in its current form in 1902, when the city put together a series of non-religious special events and shows to celebrate its patron saint. Over the years the festival has continued to grow, and now draws as many as 1.5 to 2 million people for a festival that lasts several days.

Art

This year’s posters were made by Barcelona’s Reskate Studio. The images pay homage to the city’s patron saint, the Virgin of La Mercè—who is depicted as a young girl wearing a mask—and Barcelona’s biodiversity, with images like swallows, sparrows, salamanders, and squirrels. 

By Sam Harrison in Barcelona
 
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ENVIRONMENT

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?

Around 10,000 people demonstrated against the expansion of the El Prat airport in Barcelona on Sunday.

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?
People march during a demonstration against the expansion of the Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP

Several ecological and agricultural organisations, have demanded that the expansion be stopped due to the fact nearby wetlands and farms would have to be destroyed.

The demonstration took place on Calle Tarragona in the Catalan capital between Plaça d’Espanya and Plaça dels Països Catalans.

The protests still took place, even though last week, Spain suspended the €1.7 billion airport expansion project, citing differences with the Catalan government, after president Pere Aragonès said he wanted to avoid destroying La Ricarda lagoon, a natural reserve next to the airport. 

Environmentalists decided not to call off the march, in case plans for the airport expansion still went ahead.

READ ALSO: Six things you need to know about Barcelona airport’s €1.7 billion planned expansion

Political representatives from ERC, En Comú Podem and the CUP also attended, as well as the leader of Más País, Íñigo Errejón; the Deputy Mayor for Ecology of the Barcelona City Council, Janet Sanz, and the Mayor of El Prat de Llobregat, Lluís Mijoler.

People from neighbourhoods across the city marched towards Calle Tarragona and could be seen holding placards that read Nature yes, airport no and shouting slogans such as “More courgettes and fewer planes” and “Fighting for the climate, health, and life”. 

One of the largest groups of people were those from El Prat de Llobregat, the municipality which is home to the airport, who were led by tractors. 

People march during a demonstration against the expansion of Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP

In addition to protesting against the expansion of the El Prat airport, people were also demonstrating against the Winter Olympic Games in the Pyrenees and extensions to airports in Mallorca and Madrid. 

A representative of Zeroport, Sara Mingorría said “We are here to defend not only La Ricarda, but the entire Delta”. 

The philosopher Marina Garcés also argued that the expansion of the airport would mean “more borders, more mass tourism, more control and more precarious jobs.” 

The leader of the commons in the Catalan parliament, Jéssica Albiach, who also attended the protest, asked the PSOE for “coherence”: “You cannot be passing a law against climate change and, at the same time, defend the interests of Aena [the airport operations company]”, she said. 

She also urged the leader of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, to “definitely say no. 

If the airport expansion in Barcelona goes ahead, environmentalists say that CO2 emissions would rise by a minimum of 33 percent. These levels would surpass the limits set by the Catalan government’s climate targets.

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