Perspectives on the "fiestas" in the 21st century

The traditional celebration as an instrument for and to promote democratic coexistence
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A celebration is held to celebrate something, but, in general terms, parties are mainly held to spend a pleasant time and enjoy the company of loved ones or the community in general when celebrating or commemorating a particular event. Despite the diversity of manifestations, the similarities are high, especially in cultural spaces that have shared and share common histories and even similar ways of life, as is the case of the Mediterranean, a sea that has united and unites, culturally and politically, different peoples and cultures, but which in elements such as parties find a privileged environment for meeting. For this reason, when talking about parties in Egypt, Israel, Morocco, France, Italy, Greece, Morocco or other Mediterranean countries, it is important to see what these shared traits are.

Moreover, today, when the Mediterranean is a sea of comings and goings for hundreds and thousands of people who want to reach European countries, possibly, as noted at the end of the text, the party is a magnificent element that allows and encourages intercultural dialogue as well as the incorporation into our ways of life of these people who seek a better future.

First of all, when talking about parties, it is necessary to differentiate between what can be called a festive event, such as, for example, shopping in a large shopping centre, which can have a festive dimension because of the way it is carried out. The same could be said of trade fairs or music festivals, but all of them are not parties: their aims are different... to buy, to listen to music, to see your musical idols...

On the contrary, the party, by its very etymological definition, has other meanings and dimensions: its meaning is different because of its own constants: sociability, participation, rituality and the temporary and symbolic annulment of order[1].

[1] Paul Hugger. Einleitung. Das Fest. Perspektiven einer Forschungsgeschichte". En: Paul Hugger (ed.), Sta dt und Fest. Zu Geschichte und gegenwart europäischer Festkultur . Stuttgart: W&H Verlags AG, 1987, p. 19.

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The "fiesta" is a social phenomenon by definition, since, as has already been pointed out by many researchers, a party can never be the work of just one person. Party and community, whether small or large, are always inextricably linked. A party is also fun, but the key to any party lies in its capacity to make all the participants vibrate in unison. Hence, when it is achieved, the party is a powerful element of sociability. It has been said of parties that they are not only gateways but also bridges that unite different social classes, age groups, gender or cultures[1]. But, on the other hand, it is also known that not all these different strata of the population take advantage of the party in the same way, and that however much the unifying capacity of the party is idealised, it should not be expected that the internal boundaries that a given society may erect on the basis of criteria of gender, age, class or ethnic origin should not also manifest themselves in party behaviour. But despite these limitations, what is also true is that parties offer a variety of possibilities for social interaction that are not present in everyday life.

Party means participation, although this participation can, of course, be of quite a different nature. Detlev Sivers spoke of active participation and passive participation: the first refers to all those social agents who take part in the conception and organisation of the party, as well as those who play an active role in the development of the different events. The second refers to those people who limit themselves to the role of observers, either by being present at the event itself or by following it through the media[2]. Without doubt, what we have called active participation constitutes the most important core of the party: without this aspect, there would be no party as such: if it were limited to passive participation, then we would have to speak of a spectacle. But this should not lead us to underestimate this type of participation, which can also be of considerable importance for the development of some parties. The presence of these spectators, directly or through the media, can strongly influence the dynamics of the party and the social perception of it. For this reason, participation, as a fundamental constant of the party, is a very relevant aspect for social interaction.

The ceremonial dimension appears intimately linked to the notion of party, which implies an important content in rituals, in the broadest sense of the term; that is, specific actions with very concrete rules that correspond to specific situations and whose main characteristic is repetition, as well as a purpose that is not instrumental but expressive: every party has its rituals, religious or profane. We are therefore talking about morphological elements with a very specific syntax which are obviously historically and culturally conditioned.

It is precisely this ritual component that plays a very important role in the party as an element of communication, communication understood not only as an exchange of information between people but also as a process of inter-subjective understanding that has socially sanctioned rules and an exchange of emotional content as its framework[3]. Ritual components are also carriers of certain information, elements of regulation of social interaction and behaviour. It is not only important what is said, but also how it is said.

Likewise, all of this is linked to the temporal dimension: the party means that everyday time is annulled: social, community or family order takes second place in order to facilitate a social time in which certain social rules can be broken to facilitate spontaneity, which is inherent to the party dimension. But to speak of a party implies, in fact, referring, to a large extent, to institutionalisation: it is difficult to speak of a party without there being an organisation that prepares and coordinates this moment. Thus, the party is framed in the dialectical tension between two opposing poles: "spontaneity" versus "planning", "chaos" versus "order".

[1] Enrique Gil Calvo. Estado de fiesta . Madrid: Espada-Calpe, 1991, pág. 41.

[2]  Kai Detlev Sievers. “ Das Fest a los kommunikatives System.“ Kieler Blätter zur Volkskunde (1986), vol. 18, pág. 12.

[3] Vid. supra Kai Detlev Sievers, op. cit ., pág. 5

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Ultimately, it should be added that, in addition to all that has been said so far, today, in a globalised society, the party can have other attributes and social benefits as an active factor in citizens' policies, which, as has already been indicated above, is particularly relevant today in the Mediterranean countries:

  • Fostering intergenerational and intercultural dialogue: the party, as well as memory, can foster intergenerational knowledge and dialogue.
  • Stimulate social trust and democratic participation: given the accelerated change of cultural and social references, it is necessary to seek systems that enable communities to be able to create new conditions that make it possible to promote community values such as solidarity or sustainability beyond strictly economic values: the party can encourage the creation of civic lobbies or stimulate socially informed debate.
  • Contribute to economic development: the party can be a driving force for the promotion of local industries and activities that help in the fight against, for example, the gentrification of large cities. However, certain dangers must always be borne in mind, such as the fact that the party can become another element of the market economy thanks to massification and, now, touristification, examples of which can be found in countries such as Spain, Greece, Italy, Malta and Turkey.

All this leads us to think that the party, like memory, can be a social instrument that allows us to resist the artificial paradise of indignation and, for this very reason, of social and cultural alienation. Today, these ideas have fallen into disuse: alienation was very present in German philosophy (Fichte, Hegel, Marx), especially in discourses linked to the class struggle. Today, however, it can possibly be a good "device" for understanding - and acting - in a world in constant social, economic, cultural and political change, where mechanisms for the mediatisation of people's thoughts and actions emerge, suggesting collective imaginaries far removed from realities and the creation of values and visions far removed from the common good.

Parties, like cultural heritage or memory, can today become a vital aspect in the construction of a more humanised society, in which coexistence, dialogue, solidarity and participation are the main axes of action. And this is one of the great challenges for all administrations and citizens: if this is not the case, we may be increasingly exposed to the risk of having to pay to read the classics[1].

[1] Enrique Barón. "En defensa de la propiedad (intelectual)". El País (viernes, 20 de marzo de 1998), p. 12.