La Mercè 2021

Mass drinking party to start La Mercè: "Most of us are not afraid of catching covid"

Thousands of young people fill Barcelona's Plaça Espanya, called through social networks

3 min
Macrobotellot in Barcelona's Plaça Espanya at the beginning of the Mercè festivities

BarcelonaThousands of young people in Plaça Espanya. A full-fledged 'macrobotellón' (mass street-drinking party) that makes a joke out of the one that took place a few weeks ago in the Parc de l'Espanya Industrial. A multitudinous call as a starting signal for La Mercè festivities. The recommendations of the City Council and the health services not to go to the street party, not to gather in large groups of people, to rationalise social interaction, have been of no use. The response of Barcelona's young people is clear: they want to party and this is more powerful than all the recommendations in the world. The image is shocking. Not a needle can fit at the foot of the Torres Venecianes, at the beginning of Avinguda Maria Cristina and all around the first pavilions of the Fira. The entire perimeter of the square, including the central garden area, has been colonised. The feeling is that the whole of Barcelona (and the Barcelona beltway) between fifteen and twenty-five years old is here. La Mercè concerts at the Olympic Stadium and the Teatre Grec have had an effect, and the call to action on the social networks (especially Instagram) has done the job.

It is impressive to witness the feeling of liberation, the organic need to drink, to go out, to do it in style. With the easing of anti-covid measures and requirements, coinciding with the opening of nightlife and vaccination spread, albeit not uniformly, through all layers of the population, the "free rein" becomes the norm. "My parents don't know I'm here", "I said I was going out and that's it", "Most of us who are here are not afraid of getting infected". The testimonies are varied and for all tastes. Carla, Daisy, Marta and all the friends in the group know that it is recommended not to go binge drinking but they don't know how to stop the urge to go out: "We'd rather do this than go to a club, we have a better time". People are arriving all the time, with the Nit Bus, on the metro and in taxis. The square is already an anthill, an open-air (post)summer macro-club.

Thousands of people gather in Plaça Espanya in Barcelona on the first night of La Mercè

In the middle, almost as an oxymoron, is the police station of the Mossos d'Esquadra. No movement, just a trickle of police cars entering the parking lot. Also health units and the Guardia Urbana parked in the square and adjacent streets. "How will you clear this?", asks a group of uninhibited people to two Urbana police agents. "We don't know, it will be complicated". In fact, it's obvious that it's impossible to clear, it would require dozens of teams and hundreds of officers to proceed. Very sensitive material - any spark could ignite a powder keg.

Front Marítim recovers nightlife

Countless loudspeakers, overlapping music, handfuls of potential alcohol intoxication and the inevitable alcohol street vendors who begin to make their presence felt. They're coming from the Front Marítim, where they've already been going their own way for a while. The busy open-air nightclub area, between Barceloneta and the Olympic Village, is the nerve centre of the gradual resurgence of nightlife in the city. Fascinating is the little city of leisure that beats beneath the Hotel Arts and Frank Ghery's Fish and next to the Casino de Barcelona. The irons that descend from the sky extend their tentacles in a network of staircases that go up and down, of corridors and cement, of terraces and souls inflamed by the glow of the night. There is a lot of vigilance and there is a lot of laissez-faire, controlled permissiveness, confiscation so that it goes unsaid, a blind eye. Both with the street vendors who infest the area, and with those who drink in the street, and with the dozen or so prostitutes who make a living undisguised in front of the terraces of Shocko, Opium, Pacha and so many others that throb in front of the sand of the old Somorrostro beach.

At the end of the outdoor area, a small party on the sand, almost a hippy's excuse. Carlos, Faina, Jaime and his friends, a couple of mountains of clothes, beer on tap and a very powerful loudspeaker. "We have nothing to do inside one of these clubs. We want fresh air, sea air". Motorbikes from the Urbana patrol the sand, a plainclothes officer - unmistakable with his duffel bag slung over his back - stands by and there are countless little verbal brawls at the entrance to the nightclubs. All kinds of people: the thrashers, the cocky, the shy, the veterans, the ones dressed to kill, the liberated, the muscular... They all had the night, the dancing and the pheromones ready. Three, two, one - party.