"Voy a reir, voy a bailar, vivir mi vida!" This chorus could be heard blaring everywhere in Spain this year - in shops, buses and clubs.
"Vivir Mi Vida," the hit song by Marc Anthony, proclaims enthusiastically, "I'm going to laugh, I'm going to dance, live my life," and asks, "Why cry? Why suffer?"
It's a catchy, upbeat anthem that causes club-goers to throw their hands up when it starts to play, but it's also a striking reflection of Spaniards' attitudes towards the current economic crisis.
In this photo taken by Erica Motter, children are shown as they have fun at the San Marcos festival located in the city of El Ejido, Spain. Although Spain’s unemployment rate continues to hover just above 25 percent, Spaniards continue find ways to enjoy life.
Shown is Erica Motter, left, and her roommate, as they enjoy the festival in El Ejido.
Although Spain's unemployment rate continues to hover just above 25 percent, its citizens still find ways to enjoy life, as I recently witnessed in the city of El Ejido during its San Marcos festival.
San Marcos is a modest event, but grandiose annual festivals given in honor of saints are well-known features of Spanish culture, and draw tourists from all over the world to the larger cities' more famous celebrations, such as the Feria de Sevilla or San Fermin in Pamplona.
Since El Ejido's chief industry is agriculture, and San Marcos (Saint Mark) is commonly associated with rural areas and pastoral life, the city commemorates the saint with a festival each year at the end of April.
Many years ago, agricultural workers were given the day April 25 off to celebrate. But over time, San Marcos has been moved to be celebrated on the Sunday closest to the actual date, with the festival itself spanning the whole weekend.
A few months before San Marcos, previously-vacant shops start displaying flamenco dresses in the windows. These dresses all demonstrate the distinctive Sevillana style, with ruffled layers at the bottom, and boast fabric in bright colors and patterns such as polka dots and florals.
The dresses were traditionally associated with the city of Seville, but they've since become popular throughout all southern Spain as festival attire. Women match big earrings with their dresses and clip a flower in their hair to complete their flamenco costumes during San Marcos.
A fairground area springs up on the first day of the festival, and each day there are some planned events, such as concerts or other gatherings to eat, drink and dance.
In addition, many people have private parties or barbecues in their homes, or go out in large groups to pubs, restaurants and cafes. At any given moment during San Marcos, the streets and most of the city's establishments are filled with people.
On Sunday, a procession winds through the city's streets, with horses and parade floats called "carrozas" - trucks that pull behind them what are, essentially, moving parties.
The beds of the trucks are adorned with flowers and paintings, and inside them, groups of people drink and dance. The women flaunt their flamenco dresses, men push ice cream carts through the crowds and everyone lines up along the street to watch the show.
The fair area itself consists of relatively typical attractions - food stands offering greasy or sugary foods like burgers and cotton candy, carnival rides with flashing lights and dubious levels of safety, and a small vendor market for local merchants to sell their goods.
What really makes Spanish festivals stand out from those of the United States is the fact that, during the festival weekend, the celebration never stops. From Friday until very late on Sunday, people are constantly out in the streets.
Some fair-goers choose to stay in the discotecas until 6 or 7 a.m., visit a vendor stand to eat churros with melted chocolate and then continue to celebrate. Some head to their beds at the same time as others rise. Even if you do choose to sleep, the sounds and energy of the whole town in motion always are discernible just outside the window.
The overwhelming opinion about San Marcos from residents of El Ejido has been that, although this year's festival was fun, the overall size and lavishness pales in comparison to celebrations a few years ago.
With Spain's economic crisis, there is considerably less money available for municipalities to spend on things like town festivals. This translates into fewer town-sponsored events, simpler carrozas and smaller fairs.
Yet in spite of all this, as Marc Anthony has said, they still managed to dance, laugh and enjoy themselves.
Motter, a native of Jersey Shore, has been teaching English in Spain following graduation from Lock Haven University last spring.
She may be reached at email@example.com.