Carnaval de Cádiz
Throughout Catholic countries around the world, it’s Carnival season, which means it’s time to party! Carnival marks the beginning of Lent, the time to get all your partying out before forty days of fasting. There’s disputes over where the name came from, but the explanation I prefer is that it comes from “carne va,” or “meat goes,” referring to the ban on meat during Lent. Americans best know this celebration as Mardi Gras, with New Orleans’ Mardi Gras being one of the biggest Carnival celebrations in the world, along with Rio de Janeiro’s Carnaval.
Spain loves Carnival as well, and one of the most popular places in Spain to celebrate the holiday is Cádiz, a beach city about an hour and a half south of Sevilla. So, like any good guiri would, last Saturday, I dressed, as my co-teacher explained, as a mamarracho (basically, a disastrous mess), boarded a bus bound for Carnaval de Cádiz, and got ready to party the night away.
According to Wikipedia, “It is a widely-held opinion that the city of Cádiz is blessed with the wittiest people in Spain ,” and though I’m not sure of the veracity of that citation-less assertion, I will say that Carnaval de Cádiz is a pretty silly event. In contrast to the elaborate costumes and dancing in places like Rio, young people fill Cádiz’s streets with €10 costumes bought at their local chino store, tacky makeup, and, of course, lots and lots of booze.
Another important aspect of Carnaval de Cádiz are the competing musical groups that perform around the festival, particularly the comedic, satirical chirigotas. Unfortunately, due to our timing in Cádiz, we missed these, although I have seen a few groups around Sevilla in the past week that seem to be chirigotas performing especially for Carnaval season.
DiscoverExcursions organizes bus transportation to and from Cádiz every year during Carnaval, so a big group of my friends joined them to partake in the celebrations. My auxiliar friends Allie and Linnaea and I purchased some cheap accessories, threw them over our warm coats, put on way too much makeup, and called that our costumes. For anyone who asked, we were drag queens.
Upon arriving we found, well, basically a giant, crowded botellón (the highly popular Spanish tradition of drinking in public, open-air places) with lots of costumes. I’d love to say I had a mind-blowing experience with another culture, learning all about the important traditions of Cádiz, but instead I spent the night standing around talking with friends and occasional strangers and getting pushed around by drunk people. I had a good time, definitely, but it wasn’t anything particularly special. I enjoyed spending time with my friends (as always), it was pretty neat to see the sheer number of people packed into one plaza, and it’s always fun to check out other people’s costumes, although, I have to say, the costumes at the West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval are way more clever/elaborate/interesting. If I were to do Carnaval all over again, I’d go earlier in the day and try to watch some of the parades and concerts.
The other perk to Carnaval? My preschool students celebrating all week long with “costumes,” a.k.a. backwards clothes on Monday, band-aids on their foreheads Tuesday, and painted noses yesterday. Today, they wore full-on costumes, but, sadly, Thursdays are the one day I don’t have class with them. Still, it made my afternoon to walk behind a mini Zorro on the way to my bus stop.