Monday, September 29, 2008

Moors and Christians Festival, Altea

We have come to learn that the Spanish have a festival for just about everything, and Moors vs. Christians is one of the bigger fiestas held in each town. In short, this festival commemorates the takeover of Spain by the Moors and their subsequent decline at the hands of the Christians, some 800 hundred years later. At the festival in Altea (a picturesque whitewashed village perched on a seafront hillside about ½ hours south of us) we witnessed the first enactment of the drama - the Moors overthrowing the Christians. This was held in the town square at the base of the church plaza, where they had constructed a small stage/castle where the Christians were holed up. The Moors came parading into town with their brightly colored tunics and headdresses – some as villagers, some as soldiers and some as royalty. We had arrived just as the procession was winding its way to the town plaza and joined in right in the middle of the always present marching band. As we worked our way to the front, started to get pretty loud. The soldiers were leading the way, firing large muskets filled to the brim with gunpowder into the air. As the procession entered the square, their muskets really started going off, with echoes bouncing off the walls of the plaza like ping pong balls. There was soot in the air and all of us had our fingers jammed into our ears so as not to go deaf. At some point they called off the fire and what ensued was a dialog between the Moorish King and his Christian counterpart. My ears were still ringing and I can’t say I understood much of what they were saying. I was secretly hoping they were speaking in Arabic, but it is more likely that my Spanish is not yet up to snuff to follow such quick dialog. Whatever it was, the Moors did not appear appeased and the guns started going off again. We figured at this point to concede victory to the Moors and make our way to a quieter locale and get some food – not an easy task given that virtually every shop was closed during festival week. Suzanne shook her head and said to me with a laugh; “You and your festivals! They may be interesting, but there is always something odd about them.” I guess we’ll skip the Christians wrestling back control on Monday…

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