In many parts of the world, you can find souvenirs of the national costumes in tourist shops. You can go to folklore presentations and watch people dance as they once did. My week in Seville has taught me that flamenco is front and center in the present here, and not just a relic of the past. My new friend Sara started flamenco school at age 6, and only gave it up at 18 because she left to go to college.

For the celebration of Feria here, which occurs three weeks after Easter, every woman in Seville buys the traditional flamenco dress with its broad flounces, sexy neckline, and body-hugging shape. Store windows compete for the most elaborate dresses, shawls and jewelry for the event.

For one week, music from over 1000 casetas, private pavilions, fills the streets. By invitation only, these parties continue virtually round-the-clock, music fills the airs, and shoes click on stones in rapid, noisy rhythm.

But the shopping goes on for months. It is important to pick just the right dress, or if you are more traditional, to pick just the right fabric and accessories, and of course, the right seamstress. Your outfit can be varied by the specific flower you wear on the top of your head each day, and by the shawl that you drape over your shoulders.

Little did we know when we went in to look at the shawl Sara had been considering that it was I who would emerge with one. The elaborate process of pinning it on to me was undertaken only after detailed explanations. Sara invented a pre-Feria party for me, and apologized for my lack of taste. I was American, she explained, and the black pants would replace the traditional dress, but just for tonight. By the time the entire process was finished, it was so late that I did in fact head directly to our farewell dinner.

My friends loved the shawl, completely unaware of the inappropriateness of my attire!