4th September 2014
The Spanish are renowned for their bizarre and wacky festivals, particularly ones that involve throwing things at their neighbours! Up there with La Tomatina, where people pelt each other with tomatoes, and San Fermin, where thousands gather willingly to be chased through the streets by a stampede of bulls, the Cascamorras is just as unique!
Between the 6th and 9th September every year, the towns of Guadix and Baza – both in the province of Granada – continue the tradition of an infamous battle that took place during the Middle Ages. Legend has it that tension between the two towns became rife when a statue, the Virgen de la Piedad (Lady of Mercy), was discovered by a labourer from Guadix under rubble in Baza. Baza residents believed the statue was their property as it was discovered on their territory, but Guadix residents (Accitanos) thought it theirs because one of their own people discovered it. Consequently, the two towns became enemies. After much dispute, it was finally decided that the statue would remain in Baza but that every year a resident from Guadic could try to reclaim it. An Accitano would dress up as a clown-like character called the Cascamorras – which literally translates as ‘bash his head’ – and make the 3km journey to Baza, accompanied by a team of fellow villagers, to attempt to claim the Virgen de la Piedad. However, the resident from Guadix had to arrive in Baza untouched and the Bazans would not give them an easy ride. They would chase them through the streets, often badly injuring and in the worst cases even killing the Cascamorras!
Around the 1940s, the tradition became much less violent and more playful. The ritual now starts a few days before the festival with a wine drinking contest to determine who is the fittest for the journey to Baza! Then, keeping with tradition, on the 6th September the chosen Cascamorras and his troop set off on their quest. However, the rule now stands that the Cascamorras must arrive absolutely spotless with no stains on his clothes. In order to ensure his failure, rather than ‘bashing his head’ Bazans cover themselves in dirt and stand at the border of their town with mud, motor oil and eggs by their side ready to pelt the intruder. Once the Cascamorras is covered from head to toe he has failed his mission. He is often given several chances to wash off the grime in the fountains and try again but the residents keep splattering him with grey gunge!
After admitting defeat, the Cascamorras remains in Baza for two days of Spanish-style fiestas before heading back to Guadix on 9th September. On his return, the angered residents see that the Cascamorras has failed and throw more mud and oil. All in all, this crazy, dirty festival is just another reason for the Spanish to have a 3-day party! We wonder how long it’ll take to wash all that mud and oil off!