We have more than enough reasons to defend Sitges' brand as a ''Seaside Town''. In fact, even our DNA is salty: the first census conducted in Spain with statistical criteria, and dating back to 1787, pointed out that 12% of the population had a 'sea registration', that is, they worked professionally in fishing. And it was by sea that the entrepreneurial adventure of many Sitgetans took place, who literally created 'the Americas', returning home as prosperous businessmen and then transforming the local landscape with their so-called ‘homes of the Americanos’, built in a neoclassical or modernist style. In some cases, their family names became timeless, such as Facundo Bacardí, whose legacy can be seen at the ‘Casa Bacardi’, located at Sitges’ Mercat Vell (Old Market).
The town's seafaring history also makes a stopover in the old town, the old fishermen's quarter. And at the Vinyet Chapel, where the aforementioned 'Americanos' arrived after their long sea voyages with gratitude, thankfully bearing ex-votos from their boats, which they left as offerings in this small church. The building, which is part of the inventory of Catalonia's Architectural Heritage, is impressive, as is its historical legacy, hanging on its walls and from its ceiling in the form of laminae and miniature boats.
But that history is still alive. Sitges isn’t a ‘Seaside Town’ because of what it was, but also because of what it is. And that driving force is provided by the Sitges Fishermen's Association, one of the few remaining in Catalonia that practices artisanal fishing. To paint a picture for you, this artisanal concept is related to small boats and to a fishing system based on hand-held nets. Minor arts, the fishermen call them: fishing with nansas, trasmallos, cadups (all traditional nets and traps)... If you’re interested in the subject, few people can explain it better - and more easily - than Isabel Vivó, director of the Association itself, which is based in Port d’Aiguadolç Marina and who provides guided tours that can be booked on their own website.
Isabel is also one of the persons responsible for one of the most special maritime traditions in Sitges: The festivity in honor of Mare de Déu del Carme (Our Lady of Mount Carmel), scheduled for this 16th of July. Because of the "bug", this year there will be no fried fish tasting on the beach. But there will be a procession with the Mare de Déu on board one of the boats. The event will start at eight o'clock in the evening. If you don't see it, you might hear it, because when the boats pass in front of the Sant Bartomeu Church and the Vinyet Chapel, shots are fired into the air with a historic flavor, the so-called "mortarets". And remember that July 16th also brings its own nighttime entertainment, because in Sitges seaside life coexists with music all summer long. And if you add sea and music, the result are Habaneras. Where? In the Sitges Marina, which kicks off its new edition of Midnight Concerts. Attention: places ar limited.
By the way, if you're in Sitges on July 18th too, the Association has organized a wine and salt flavored day: A Sea of Malvasia, a joint activity with the Sitges Malvasia Interpretation Center (CIM). Reservations can also be made on the Association's website.
So Isabel Vivó invites you to discover Sitges' seafaring past and present. She invites you to visit them in the Port d'Aiguadolç Marina, to consult the fishermen themselves, and even to discover a trade, that of a fisherman, who has the privilege of an intimate contact with the most powerful force of nature. Because Sitges is the sea, isn't it, Isabel? A ''poetic'' question which she answers with a more accurate and authentic lyricism: ''The sea is the air we breathe in Sitges from the moment we get up until we go to bed. The sea is the life of Sitges". Nothing to add. It's just a matter of coming and inspiring. So primitive and so valid.