BYOB Debauchery: Spanish Botellónes

DSCN3177The roar of voices rose from between the trees, out of the darkness and dirt. Scooters swarmed, freshly broken glass glittered in the dim park lights. Young girls teetered in impossibly high heels and boys stumbled, leaned their faces against the sides of walls as they pissed. And every person clutched a plastic cup.

When Spanairds sigh in disapproving despondency about ¨kids today,¨ they´re talking about botellónes. In a culture of late-night fiestas,  these youth-ridden BYOB binges stand out as particularly debaucherous.

Bottelónes take place in public, on the streets and in the parks; teeangers and early 20-somethings gather to drink, flirt, cause trouble, and leave a mountain of trash in their wake. Increasingly the subject of public controversy, Seville´s bottelónes are known to be especially raucous.

We passed one as we trod through Parque Maria Luisa on Friday during a once-a-year festival of museum open houses and cultural performances. (How Spanish is this?: museums are free to the public from 10pm-3am, and completely full the whole time.) September is festival month in Seville, when residents have returned from August vacations and the oppression of the heat has subsided; it´s also the beginning of botellón season. My couchsurfing hosts and I were walking over to Museo Artes y Costumbres Populares, where we saw a killer flamenco show, and the adjacent Museo Arqueológico, where a classical guitarist´s exaggerated facial expressions were more dramatic than an old guitar-playing friend with Tourettes (RIP, friend).

We passed what I was told was a typically trashy Friday night bottelón. It was like a rave minus the pulsing lights and techno music, like a sideshow minus the cars and firearms. Hundreds of kids filled the open space at the park´s entrance. Teenage girls were dressed to the nines to attire revealing even by Spanish standards, while boys puffed their chests and tried to impress each other, even in curiously effeminate clothing. My hosts spoke of the trash, piss and vomit the parties left in their wake, the shards of glass and tell-tale crushed plastic cups that city workers scurry to clean up the mornings after. (The next day, I passed through the carnage of another botellón, down by the river, and had to say, it was pretty gnarly.)

I smiled to myself as we passed by. I couldn´t help but feel that, if you swapped the heels for combat boots, and blush and blow-drying for heavy eyeliner and multi-colored dreads, it wouldn´t have been too unlike the Rocky Horror Picture Show or Gilman Street of my adolescence. Instead of being out in the open, though, we were relegated to the sketchy corners of the city, to alleyways, public restrooms, the stairwells of parking garages. I wondered if having to hide it—the violent pursuit of oblivion—somehow served to make ours worse, more seedy and powder-laced, more self-destructive and apt to end in institutions and death.

From between the park gates, I spotted a girl hoisted up by two friends, her arms drapped over their shoulders. Her head hung at a sharp angel; her heeled feet scuttled, dragged in the dirt lifelessly. Whether it´s a plague to Spanish culture or kids just being kids, I felt mighty glad not to be a teenager anymore.

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Lauren Quinn is a writer and traveler currently living in Hanoi. Lonely Girl Travels was a blog of her sola travels and expat living from 2009 to 2012. She resides elsewhere on the internet now.

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