Every September Barcelona dresses up and gets ready for a big party: La Mercè (Our Lady of Mercy), patron of the Catalan capital, and the annual festival of the city since 1871. The festivity lasts several days and more than 1 million people take part in the activities organized throughout the city.
The festival pays tribute to the Virgen de la Mercè, to whom several miracles are attributed. The first reference we have dates back to the night of 24 September 1218, when it is said that the Virgin appeared simultaneously to King James I, Sant Pere Nolasc and Sant Ramon de Penyafort to create an order of monks dedicated to saving Christians. Years later, in 1687, Barcelona suffered a terrible plague of locusts and the people invoked the protection of the Virgen de la Mercè. Once the plague was over, the Virgin was named patron saint.
On this occasion, the celebration will take place between the 20th and the 24th September and, as every year, La Mercè will have a guest city. Quito, Stockholm, Montreal, Paris, Reykjavik or Lisbon - the last city invited, in 2018 - have been some of the guests of honour in previous years. On this occasion, Beirut will be the city invited in La Mercè 2019. A city that, despite being one of the areas hardest hit by the war, has today become one of the great cultural centres of the Arab world.
This year's poster is the work of the illustrator Maria Corte, born in Barcelona but with parents of Argentine origin and who already designed the poster for the Fiestas de Santa Eulàlia in 2009. The poster represents a Mercè "of the world", like so many Barcelona women, mestizo or black, maybe from here or immigrant, like the parents of the artist herself. From her colourful hair arise castellers, musicians, sculptures and even some element of fire, finished off by a sea by which a boat sails from those who rescue people at sea.
As for the announcement, the judge emerita and ex-mayor of Madrid, Manuela Carmena, will be in charge of pronouncing it this 2019.
As usual, La Mercè's programme includes concerts and all kinds of performances in the streets of the city, as well as fireworks and the now traditional pyrotechnic show that closes La Mercè every year. Given that the guest city is Beirut, the 2019 programme also includes numerous shows by music, dance and street arts groups related to the city's culture. There will also be space for cinema: the Filmoteca de Catalonia will dedicate a cycle to Lebanese cinema, with a series of films about Beirut.
To find out the complete programme of the La Mercè 2019 festivities, you can visit the Barcelona City Council website.
Felices fiestas de La Mercè a tots els barcelonins i les barcelonines!
Header image by Ferad Zyulkyarov