[highlight color=”black”]THIRSTY THURSDAY[/highlight]
If you went to college (or if you were ever reasonably young and not a total recluse) you’ve probably heard of or been to a pregame, that glorious period of time when you get together with friends to consume alcohol before going to an event where you will continue to consume alcohol. If this concept is foreign to you, think of it like a tailgate party before a football game, except instead of drinking in the back of a station wagon you’re probably in some weird guy named Jeff’s basement and instead of going to a sporting event after you just go to another party. Overindulgent? Obviously. But it’s nothing compared to a botellón, the Spanish version of this concept.
Whereas pregames in the United States and elsewhere tend to be intimate, albeit debaucherous affairs, botellones in Spain usually consists of hundreds of young people filling streets and plazas for a giant open air party before heading to bars and clubs well after midnight. The tradition allegedly started a few decades ago in the Andalusia region, where working class adults would get together in public places to drink their own beverages rather than spending money on overpriced drinks at bars. Since then the scale and demographics have changed, as nowadays kids from 14 to 30 (the loosely regulated drinking age in Spain is 18) gather en masse to mix their own cheap drinks as a way of getting drunk without paying for exorbitantly expensive cocktails at clubs.
As to be expected, the drinks consumed at your average botellón are decidedly lowbrow. For those youngsters looking for something stronger than a 40 ounce beer, a 50/50 mix of cheap red wine and Coca Cola called a kalimotxo is the drink of choice. Whichever poison one picks is consumed by the gallon for hours, preparing most partiers for a long night of dancing and some for a painful evening of embarrassing public ralphing.
You may be wondering how any of this is legal. Well, if we’re getting technical, it isn’t — Spain outlawed drinking in public in 2002 in an effort to stop these parties from occurring. The ban is not widely enforced, however, and a youthful spirit of rebellion keeps the party going. Older folks who are sick of the piles of trash left by the crowds of hooligans and whippersnappers (pictured left) are trying to get police to crack down on botellones, but as of now there is no sign that the party animals of Spain have any intention of stopping.
So the next time you’re in Spain, don’t be alarmed if you see a dense mass of twentysomethings imbibing al aire libre — buy a bottle of cheap wine and a few cans of Coke and find an open space to join in the fun. Maybe try not to litter, though.