Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Moors and Christians Fiestas Throughout Spain

The medieval wars of the Reconquest, in which Christian forces fought to regain Moor-held territories, are commemorated annually in over 200 Moors and Christians fiestas throughout Spain.

The majority are in the province of Alicante, most famously in the industrial inland city of Alcoi where they are held from April 22-24. Other well-known Moors and Christians fiestas in the area are in the town of Ontinyent at the end of August and in Villena - where the castle is used as a backdrop - in early September.

Some celebrations have interesting twists. At Bocairent in February the Moorish captain ends by converting to Christianity and a giant stuffed figure representing Mohammed or the Moors in general is paraded and burnt.

The enemy are not always Moors, however. At Villajoyosa, on the Costa Blanca north of Alicante, an invasion of Berber pirates which took place in 1538 and which ended in the pirates being repulsed by the intervention of the town's patron saint St Martha is re-enacted. The high point is the disembarkation of the invaders on the beach at dawn.

Then there's the fiesta of Soller in Mallorca in May which celebrates a victory over Turkish pirates and another in Barlovento, which is held on the second Sunday of August every other year on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands, re-enacting the crucial 1571 naval Battle of Lepanto in which the Ottomans were defeated.

More Moors and Christians festivities take place in the province of Granada. Granada itself celebrates the Día de la Toma on January 2 with a procession to mark the day in 1492 on
which the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, entered the city having defeated the last Moorish kingdom in Spain.

Various towns in the Alpujarras, notably Valor (Sept 14-15) commemorate the 16th-century revolt of the Moriscos - the Moors who stayed behind after the Reconquest and nominally converted to Christianity.

Elsewhere in Spain you can see further variations on the theme. At Valverde de Abajo in Cuenca two armies fight for possession of the child Jesus in January. The entrada, or victory parade,
in Jaca (Huesca), celebrates the liberation of the city from the Moors by Conde Aznar, aided by the women of the town who dressed up as men to pretend that there were more Christian soldiers than there actually were. And at Laza, in Ourense, there is a sword fight between three Moors and three Christians.

Although they have little or nothing to do with the bloodthirsty events of centuries ago, each of these endlessly-repeated battles and victories of the Christians over the Moors offers both a vivid reminder of Spain's fascinating and chequered history and yet another good reason to celebrate.

No comments: