Zaragoza Festival of Pilar

Zaragoza is the 5th largest city in Spain and every October it holds a week long festival, called the Fiestas Del Pilar, or Festival of Pilar. The city of Zaragoza features a blend of ancient Roman ruins with a modern day city, making it a unique place to learn about the past while being able to take advantage of all the amenities of a bustling city. For one week a year, the festival takes over much of the city with street vendors selling traditional foods such as chorizo, sangria for only one euro, and handicrafts on every corner. The annual festival has many long standing traditions such as constructing a massive pyramid of flowers in the main square, daily concerts of both traditional and new music, and a procession of vengeful paper mache heads that parade down the street. I was sent on assignment by Semester at Sea to document this festival and capture what it was all about. 
One of the main attractions during the Fiestas Del Pilar is the Procession of Giants and Bigheads (Comparsa de Gigantes y Cabezudos). As the parade grew near, you could start to see the crowds of people and hear the drumming echoing through the high buildings. Once we found the parade route, we were consumed by the crowds of people and immediately delighted by the impressive costumes and music filling the streets. The towering Giants, about 10 in total, stood around 12 ft. tall, with a single person carrying them on their shoulders. The person carrying the Giant was hidden inside their dress, and would spin, dance, and slowly walk down the street as children and adults looked up with delight. The crowds of people, children and parents were free to run through the parade procession, and in fact were part of the parade, unrestricted by barriers, giving off the feeling of being part of a flash mob. As people run around in the excitement of the parade, the Big Heads, which were modeled after popular figures in society, would chase children, whipping them playfully as the children would excitedly scurry down the street. Being able to join in on the parade, immersed with all the locals, allowed me to feel like a part of this old tradition, making it truly a moment I will never forget.   

Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar overlooks the Ebro River.

Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar overlooks the Ebro River.

The Offering of Flowers is one of the high points of the festival where people offer flowers to demonstrate their devotion to the Virgin Mary.

The Offering of Flowers is one of the high points of the festival where people offer flowers to demonstrate their devotion to the Virgin Mary.

The band continuously played as the procession of giants follow from behind.

The band continuously played as the procession of giants follow from behind.

The band stayed hydrated as the procession continues.

The band stayed hydrated as the procession continues.

A Big Head chases a father and son with his whip.

A Big Head chases a father and son with his whip.

Chelsea poses with a Big Head.

Chelsea poses with a Big Head.

A group of students run along side a Big Head and Nobleman on his "horse."

A group of students run along side a Big Head and Nobleman on his "horse."