If there is something I learnt after living in Canada is that Canadians don’t know how to party, we do! We (the Spaniards) definitely know how to have fun. When I lived in Vancouver I was socked every time I went to see a parade or a festival. None of them were really amazing, funny or spectacular. Nothing compared to the Spanish festivals.
Next time I will explain the differences between Spanish and Canadian festivals, but today I’m going to talk you about one the most beautiful festivals we have in Spain: Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians).
This is a special celebration that takes place in several cities in the provinces of Alicante and Valencia and commemorates the capture of the city by the Moors (Moors) and the later reconquest by the Christians during the period known as Reconquista (from the 8th century through the 15th century).
For several days, the streets of the cities become the stage of a variety of parades, shows and dances starring by people dressed with Medieval costumes as Moors or Christians. They get into groups called comparsas that represent the Christians or Moors legions and they parade divided in lines called escuadras. Moors are dressed with Arab costumes, turbans, djellabas and scimitars, while Christians wear metallic helmets, armor and blunderbusses.
Each comparsa represents different social strata. Among the Christians there are Fontanos, Marineros (Sailors), Almogávares, Cruzados, Mirenos, Labradores (Farm Workers), Templarios (Templar), Montañeses, Mozárabes, etc. The Moors are usually divided in Almorávides, Almohades, Beduinos, Sauditas, Abenzoares, Judíos (Jewish), Bereberes, Tarik, Tuaregs, Zegríes, Almanzárabes, Abencerrajes, Almorávides, etc.
The medieval music plays an important role in the festival, as well as the fireworks. During the most important parades, both Moors and Christians show their best dresses, usually designed by well-known local dressmakers. Every comparsa tries to impress the public with something spectacular and unexpected during the parades. Sometimes this is a special dance, or exotic animals (elephants, camels, horses…), or a sumptuous float…
The end of the festival usually takes place in a castle or in the beach, where the final battle is simulated and, without any exception, Christians win and Moors are expelled fromt he city.
The main cities that celebrate Moros y Cristianos are Bocairent, La Vila Joiosa, Villena, Biar, Concentaina, Crevillent, El Campello, Elda, Muro d’Alcoi, Alcoi, Oliva, Orihuela, Petrer, Concentaina and Ontinyent. There are also some cities out of the province of Valencia that celebrates Moros y Cristianos, as Almansa and Caudete (Albacete) or Caravaca de la Cruz (Murcia).
I’ve seen several times the big parades of Moros y Cristianos in Ontinyent. The “entrada Cristiana” (Christian entry) and the “entrada mora” (Moors entry) are some of the most spectacular parades in Spain, even more that the parades of Moros y Cristianos of Alcoi (usually more famous but a bit less spectacular). I found this video on Youtube that resume the atmosphere of this festival in Ontinyent. I hope you enjoy it: