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Carnival of Cadiz (part II)

Carnival band. Market square. Cadiz.

It seems incredible that the first contest stage have passed and we are already in the quarterfinals of the COAC at the Great Falla Theater…

Alreadt seen the origin and historical prolegomenas, we will approach more towards the current carnival, celebrated in the most famous «silver cup» of the world (Cadiz is know as the little silver cup, named by the Spanish Queen Elisabeth II)

To do this, I encourage you to read part one first, because that is the key to understand this holiday.

The carnival municipalisation

To talk about «a carnival festival program», we have to go back to the second half of the 19th century. At that time there was a Liberal central government. The Bourgeoisie, with the association Athenaeum, continued to celebrate its mascarade dances in private houses and theatres. The town hall thus begins to see economic income thanks to the holidays.

Even so, the guidelines for the celebration of these four pre-lent days remained very strict, imposing heavy fines and prison sentences.

The commissioning of the train facilitated the arrival of many visitors from nearby towns.

The festival was advertised in newspapers and posters.

The carnival attracted so much that it encouraged the organization of trips to Cadiz.

Proof of this is this 1916 poster in which one could enjoy the activities for four days departing from Seville, for the small price of 50 pesetas.

Round trip, accommodation, activities and even a lot of paper streamers…

An irresistible offer….

The citizen’s feelings expressed

Carnival band performance. Cathedral square. Cadiz

Many followers of Cadiz carnival are in love of its lyrics, sung out loud. Real pieces of art that praise the goodness of the beautiful Cadiz, its history, its customs, its people… But they are also a means of expressing the people’s heartbeat.

The humorous, critical and sometimes crude tone of these compositions have been the subject of harsh persecutions and censorship since ancient times.

An example took place in 1868, when the groups went out to dance proclaiming carefree couplets of ironic lyrics against politics. The result was the publication of an edict that banned all parodies against the institutions.

But the worst was still to come…

The carnival of 1870 was severely punished by the police and the army, with strong interventions all along the four days.

On the last day, Tuesday, a group of people went out into the street to sing hard against the president and his «pucherazo» (electoral fraud).

Curiously, the local press did not say anything about it, so we had look at Madrid press. It narrated a tough police chase with shots and injuries among the population. But this did not stop there, because the resentful group responded by heading to San Antonio Square to spray the stage with turpentine and set it on fire.

From then on…

In the years to come, anyone who wanted to sing had to request a license by registering the participant’s data and address. Later on, it was also necessary to register the lyrics to be sung.

The bourgeoisie continued its activities. Once the right of association was recognized by low, the lower bourgeoisie and the proletariat united together. The meetings were organized in cafes and gatherings where about educational activities in addition to those of the carnival itself.

The wit of Cadiz was already reflected in the carnival of 1872, when a group of six members came out carrying a letter in their heads. Specifically they were: A, A, D, E, M, O. The six members were interspersed among themselves and with the spectators in the streets singing parodies. When inserted between them, they formed words, being one of them «AMADEO», alluding to Amadeo of Savoy, the «adopted king». The reprisal did not reach the previous level but it is known that they were preventively detained.

And what about the famous carnival bands?

In 1884 the mayor Eduardo Genovés was the first mayor who, in addition to setting guidelines, demanded the registration of copies of the carnival songs lyrics.

This was one of the requirements that the band “the rich old women” had to fulfill, whose songs kept them traveling for several years.

They performed around Cadiz province, throughout Andalusia, then touring Spain and even America.

While they were widely accepted wherever they went, they were not always able to act because of censorship.

An example of this was in 1886, when his Republican couplets were censored in Malaga.

This “edict of the lyrics” of Mayor Genovés has made it possible for us to enjoy them today.

The oldest surviving lyrics date from 1881 and are handwritten.

What about the great contest?

Falla Theater.

Let’s continue with the 80s of the 19th century…

In 1887, at the initiative of the town council, a contest with a cash prize was held. Part of this prize consisted of fines that the groups had to pay for censorship of their lyrics. Once the groups known about this, they decided to boycott by mutual agreement and not to appear.

In 1888, the Slavic Theatre held a private contests with the awards for the first three groups. As a curiosity, foreign groups were allowed to participate and music and costume were also valued.

In 1889, the town hall again held a competition in the main theatre, with the paper printing of the couplets and a prize money as a reward.

The carnival of 1896 is of great importance, the year of the «First Official Contest of Groups» organized by the city council. Contest that establishesda small regulation that values lyrics, music, costumes, staging… The date is also remembered by the participation of the legendary “Los Claveles” choir. (Carnations choir)

The regulations for the number of participants and group type (choir, estudiantina, murga, chirigota…), were developed later towards the twenties of the next century, being modified the following years.

Until the middle of the 20th century, with the regain of the carnival as «Folk festivals», the contest was finally held in the Falla Theatre.

Finally, in 1977, the carnival was given back its traditional name and date…

Carnival is not just a party, it is the month in which the people of Cadiz open their hearts to the world to show their courage and tell us their story, which neither the church, nor the invaders, nor politics, nor censorship has managed to keep silent.

And that is humble statement. I know there’s a lot more, so if you’re up for it, I’d love to read you in the comments.

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Thank you!


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