Cascamorras 2019: Spain’s paint-throwing festival in Andalusia

Both towns of Guadix and Baza share the Cascamorras fiesta / Gtres
Both towns of Guadix and Baza share the Cascamorras fiesta / Gtres
20 August 2019, Redaction

The Cascamorras Festival

The Cascamorras is one of the oldest and weirdest festivals in Spain. Every year it takes place in early September in the towns of Baza and Guadix, both located in the province of Granada. It was declared a Festival of National Tourist Interest and, more recently, a Festival of International Tourist Interest.

It consists of crowds of locals and visitors painting themselves in black paint and charging through the streets first of Baza and then of Guadix. They take the Rolling Stones’ ‘Paint it Black’ to a whole new, very literal, level. But why do they celebrate in this way?

Why should you visit Baza and Guadix?

Baza is located next to the Sierra de Baza Natural Park. It is a city with a great historical background, in whose centre is a concentration of such important buildings as the Alcazaba, the collegiate church of Nuestra Señora Santa María de la Encarnación and the church of Santiago. It is undoubtedly a very attractive destination, and its old town of Muslim origin is beautifully preserved (the Alcazaba, Arab neighbourhoods and the Medina), not to mention its numerous archaeological sites.

Guadix also has an exceptional historical centre with a rich heritage, where the Cathedral, Mudejar-style buildings, the Alcazaba and its charming cave-houses stand out. Prehistoric sites of great archaeological value have been discovered in the area, as well as remains of other later civilizations (Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Romans). As for the food, some of the most traditional local dishes include migas, gachas soup, potato stew, rabbit and partridge, among other succulent recipes.

The Cascamorras history

The history of Cascamorras dates back to the middle of the 15th century. A worker named Juan Pedernal from Guadix was demolishing the wall of an old mosque in Baza when he found a statue of a virgin hidden there in the 12th century to protect it. Since it was he who found it, he believed it should belong to his hometown of Guadix. However, the city of Baza disagreed as it was found on their soil.

The two cities had many disputes over the statue until an agreement was reached: if Pedernal could manage to reach the Church of La Merced without having paint thrown on him by the citizens of Baza, he would recover the Virgin for his city.

What happens at the Cascamorras festival today?

Nowadays, the character of Cascamorras, dressed in a colourful costume, has the task of bringing the sacred icon completely spotless to the parish of San Miguel in Guadix. On his way through both cities he gets splashed with anything and everything people can find, first by the citizens of Baza who don’t want him to take their Virgin and then by those of Guadix for not having fulfilled his duty.

That’s why these days, the citizens of both towns re-enact this scene each year, with thousands of people getting smeared in black and running through the streets, half tormenting, half cheering the representative, the ‘Cascamorras’, in his jester’s outfit and covering him with paint. On his journey, the Cascamorras takes several breaks, during which he swings the banner of the Virgin of Piety over the heads of the crowd, whereupon all bystanders fall to their knees.

If you’re feeling fit, or mischievous, or just curious about this traditional Spanish fiesta, get down to Granada on the second weekend in September and experience a truly unique festival that would put Mick Jagger to shame.

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