Saturday, July 24, 2010

El botellón

So... thanks to a younger friend of mine in his early twenties, I got to really understand the full Spanish nightlife experience. Last night, I was privy to watching the non-tourist activities that occur on Friday and Saturday nights in Madrid. Apparently, it's quite the phenomenon, and it's called el botellón. Wikipedia defines it in the following way:

Botellón (Spanish for Big bottle) is a social activity among Spain’s youth, who gather in public areas to consume alcohol as an alternative to going to a bar or club.

"Wow, this could never happen in the States... " I commented to my 23 year-old madrileño friend as I observed a park-full of young people gathered with plastic cups and their beverages of choice. "Bueno, es prohibido..." he answered me. Prohibited. Apparently, if the police show up (and they did), participants simply have to get up and move (a slow meander is sufficient) to another spot... as if the police are sheep herders. But instead of sheep, they are herding inebriated teenagers and twenty-somethings.

If you are curious about el botellón, you can visit the Wikipedia page. If you're not, you can just take my word for it. It looked more or less like a tailgate party in a parking lot. But without grilled food. Or cars. Or old dudes with beer guts. And it was a plaza instead of a parking lot. Not sure if that helped. I guess my only complaint would be that the participants of el botollón don't tend to clean up after themselves too well (see picture below).

This photo was taken in 2005, when my (then) roommate and I made fun of the trashy state of the park near our house on a Saturday morning. Haha. Now I know why.

And, in the true spirit of el botellón, I am taking a "plastic cup half-full" approach to analyzing the whole evening:
  1. I was allowed a glimpse into true Spanish "youth" culture.
  2. Given my surroundings, I was able to practice my Spanish with kids who threw around a LOT of slang and didn't always slow down for me to process it. Halfway into the evening, it felt like my own speech was flowing out of me like a river.
  3. No one I hung out with last night actually knew how close to the brink of thirty I was. When my friend and I asked one of his friends to guess, his friend looked at me, " I give you... twenty-five years... but that's on the high end. Probably less." The next words out of my mouth may or may not have been the Spanish equivalent to, "You're my new best friend."
I think I might go to the store now. I ran out of leche de soja, and that's kind of a vegan crime. I will finish my Italy saga and include some nice pictures. Soon.

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