Lunes de Aguas: The Craziest Spanish Party You’ve Never Heard Of

Lunes de Aguas: The Craziest Spanish Party You've Never Heard Of

Studying abroad introduced me to an entirely different way of partying. Each country has its own style of nightlife. My friend Sarah studied in London and went out almost exclusively to her university’s student pub. My friend Cassie studied in Florence and spent the majority of her time in restaurants and cafés drinking wine. And, my friend Doss studied in Sevilla and could always be found in a discoteca until daylight. Salamanca, Spain is a university town (think: Syracuse or College Station). Many of the city’s bars are populated by students and will promptly turn into discotecas and dance clubs around 2 AM.

After nearly a semester of going out for tapas and sangria and eating 4 AM kebabs on my way home from the Gran Vía, I started missing American-style college partying. Although Muhlenberg doesn’t exactly have a reputation for wild parties, an annual favorite is the St. Patrick’s Day keg crawl, which I was a little salty about missing.

However, I had forgotten about the local Fiesta Salmantina, Lunes de Aguas.

In medieval times, where there were male college students, there were prostitutes. What a study break!

It was late April, and I was still trying to focus my mental energy on school after my weeklong spring break in the UK. It didn’t help that Salamanca in the spring is gorgeous. I spent the better half of my morning class staring out the window. After class, my friends reminded me that afternoon classes were cancelled in honor of the holiday.

Translated to “Water Monday,” Lunes de Aguas is a festival only celebrated in Salamanca occurring on the Monday one week after Easter. The city of Salamanca sprang up around the university in the 13th century. Although la Universidad de Salamanca was hailed as the premiere learning institution in Europe, the surrounding city was sleazy, depraved, and immoral. In medieval times, where there were male college students, there were prostitutes. What a study break!

By the 16th century, Prince Felipe II wanted to revamp Salamanca. During Lent, city officials sent the prostitutes out of the city across the Río Tormes so they wouldn’t tempt the university students, in keeping with the Lenten ideals of sacrifice and repentance. One week after Easter, the prostitutes were permitted to reenter the city.

The university students celebrated their return by celebrating at the shores with food, vino tinto, and partying. Today, salmantinos commemorate this bit of local history by getting the afternoon off and heading down to the Tormes to have a merienda picnic with hornazo, a type of empanada filled with chorizo, egg, and cheese.

“You’re going to need this, Raquelita,” she said in Spanish, giving me a knowing wink. I thanked her, confused.

After my midday meal at home, I got myself ready for what I had thought would be a nice little picnic by the river. Before I left, Señora packed me the hornazo, an orange, an emergency tortilla, and a huge bottle of water. “You’re going to need this, Raquelita,” she said in Spanish, giving me a knowing wink. I thanked her, confused. Why would I need two liters of water to have a picnic in the grass with my friends?

We met up in the plaza, and walked past the university to where the rear part of campus overlooked the Río Tormes. What I saw next resembled equal parts tailgate, cook out, and music festival. What I assumed was going to be a benign little picnic was actually a day drinking extravaganza. Although the party started after comida, I somehow didn’t make it home until after midnight.

What struck me about the fiesta was how loud it was, due to the sheer volume of people. I would conservatively estimate that there were at least 5,000 people there, mostly teenagers and college kids. My friends and I made our way along the bank of the river, but there was virtually nowhere to sit.

We eventually squeezed ourselves between a group of girls drinking Don Simon sangria out of paper bags and another group of students playing music from speakers. All around us people were laughing and eating and smoking. I shed my layers and tanned my shoulders while we played Heads Up! and soaked in the party atmosphere.

Someone popped the cork off a bottle of wine against the chapel wall. And I peed outside for the first time in my life.

The girls I came with eventually wanted to go home. But I was intoxicated by the fiesta (and from drinking 50-cent Mahou, which is essentially Spanish Natty Light). After screaming into my cell phone to be heard over the crowd, I made my way upstream to find another group of friends from my program, who were hanging out with some local university students.

The darker it got, the more the party started to resemble what the first Lunes de Aguas celebrations might have been like. Some people got rowdier, while others got flirtier. Someone popped the cork off a bottle of wine against the chapel wall, and I peed outside for the first time in my life. We decided to leave at around 10, but the rest of the masses weren’t leaving anytime soon. We wandered around the city for the rest of the evening, enjoying what is literally the world’s most random holiday.

Españoles are known to have a dicho, or saying, for every occasion. My favorite is “la primavera, la sangre altera.” It translates to “in spring, everyone gets a little crazy.” This should be the official slogan for Lunes de Aguas. As much as I love Muhlenberg, I had always begrudged my small liberal arts college for not having a wild party scene or epically-proportioned tailgates.

Well, Lunes de Aguas in Salamanca was a Euro-style day drinking extravaganza that could put any big American state school to shame.

Lunes de Aguas: The Craziest Spanish Party You’ve Never Heard Of

Lunes de Aguas: The Craziest Spanish Party You've Never Heard Of

Lunes de Aguas: The Craziest Spanish Party You’ve Never Heard Of photo credits: Ray Gallagher

Have you traveled to Salamanca? How was your trip? Email us at editor@pinkpangea.com for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.

 

About Ray Gallagher

Ray GallagherRay Gallagher, a student at Muhlenberg College, studied abroad at the University of Salamanca in Spain.

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