Carnaval de Málaga

We blundered into Minneapolis on February 3, just in time for the Super Bowl (but apparently those people didn’t fly into the Humphrey Terminal or cross the river into Northeast.) This is as close as we got

Then we wandered into Málaga on February 7, right into the middle of Carnaval. Because this is a very Catholic city, except for the six hundred rather important years that it was Muslim and a millennia or two before that, Carnaval is their pre-Lenten blow-out. Basically, a nine-day street party.

But don’t call it Mardi Gras, because it ends on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, not the Tuesday. Somehow Domingo (or Dimanche) Gras doesn’t have the same connotation.

The event traces its roots back to the early 16th Century, a couple decades after the armies of Christ drove the armies of Islam out of the Iberian Peninsula, in preparation for the Inquisition. The original Carnaval model seemed to have been to choose the most mischievous 13-year-old altar boy and make him Bishop for a day. He could then make the rules and conduct the services as he thought appropriate. Much merriment ensued.

As things progressed and regressed, the festivities were periodically shut done by Rome but kept reappearing in slightly different guises. As things now stand, I doubt if they are in any danger of offending this Pope.

Compared to New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro, and Mobile, this is the Sunday School version. But this is Spain and a lot closer to Rome than Louisiana, Brazil, or Alabama. On almost any metric. All in all, this was more like Winter Carnival in St. Paul than Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Most of the events were along the line of Desfiles del Niños (Children’s Parades) in costumes, which probably have some historic meanings, lectures and classes on the history and culture of Málaga and Andalusia, vocal competitions among choirs, mostly men but an occasional women’s group, again in matching  costumes signifying something. The lectures were way beyond our level of Spanish (i.e., Una más cerveza, por favor; ¿Dondé es el banó? y ¿Habla englise?)

Costumes that we think we could identify ranged from grown men dressed as teapots wearing oversized Mad Hatter hats on one end of the spectrum to men and women dressed as  St. Francis D’Assissi complete with robes, beards, LED-lighted halos, and a dove on the top. There some incentives for everyone else to come in costume as well and, of course, dogs and infants were not immune.

The official competitions took place at La Plaza de la Constitutión (shown above,) which is the center of the historic El Centró District, ten minute walk for Doré from our apartment, and sometimes felt a little like Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Less formal recitals could happen on any street corner, café, or bar. Once you’re dressed for the occasion, you don’t go away quietly.

Presumable, the songs were humorous or satirical but we didn’t understand a word of it and probably wouldn’t have gotten the references if we had understood. And no one else ever laughed, but how much are we laughing at satire at the moment. But singers definitely emote.

Calle Marqués de Larios, their North Michigan or 5th Avenue

The official end of Carnaval on the last Sunday was el Gran Boqueroná, Degustación de boquerones fritos (i.e., eating large quantities of fried anchovies,) which others seemed to enjoy. It all ended with a march down Calle Larios to the beach (Playa de la Malagueta, I think) for el Entierro del Boquerón, i.e., burial of the anchovy. I don’t know why they did it but that seems a reasonable thing to do with anchovies and something I could enjoy.

Street musicians on break

In the interest of full disclosure, we may have slept through some of the festivities not involving children in costume. People here think two to five (i.e., 14:00 to 17:00) is an appropriate time to sleep (most shops are closed) and that 10:00 (i.e., 22:00) is an appropriate time to go out to dinner. Other times of the day, meals consist mostly of coffee, pastries, and tapas. Or wine.

The really big, must-see deal here happens next month during Holy Week. That apparently will have a slightly different tone, featuring processions through the streets of the old city carrying crucifixes and “thrones” (or floats) that take 200 or 300 people to lift them. They will have to use the widest streets but we are told we can see them from our balcony.

2 thoughts on “Carnaval de Málaga

    1. Yes, it is about 40 or 50 degrees F warmer here (almost 30 C.) That gives us lows in the 40s and highs in the 60s. You can tell from the way people are dressed it isn’t hot. While some people think air conditioning isn’t necessary in Minnesota, some people here, including our landlord, think heat isn’t necessary. It is very invigorating getting out of bed in the morning.


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