Portada » Carnival of Cádiz, part one.

Carnival of Cádiz, part one.

Mask and colorful papelillos.

As the song goes… “Carnival, carnival, I love you!”

February is already here, the month where two experientially opposite festivals take place: the carnival and the beginning of Lent.

And… What do I do mentioning Lent when this entry is supposed to be all about the carnival, the papelillos, the songs, the costumes and partying?
Well, I’m so sorry to tell you that, without Lent, there would be no carnival. Why? Keep reading….

The “Carnestolendas”

«Het Gevecht tussen Carnival en Vasten.» Pieter Brueghel el Viejo. 1559.
  • from Latin: «caro», «carnis» (meat) and «tollendus» from «tollere» (tp remove, to take)
  • removal or disposal of meat, deprivation of its consumption.

The “carnestolendas” were celebrated days before the beginning of Lent, precisely, from Sunday to Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. On that day, it was customary to go to Mass to receive the anointing with ash in the form of a cross on the forehead. Thus began 40 days of fasting and resting indoors in preparation for Holy Week.

Faced with this panorama of obligatory fulfillment, the days before the «spiritual confinement» were celebrated inordinately with copious banquets, parties and dances.

Some people tried to safeguard their identity behind a mask or disguise to avoid being a public scandal victim, humiliated and disgraced.

The situation became such dangerous that the church had to imposed measures. In order to keep the Christians entertained and away from all evil, they organized religious events and services, such as the 40 hours. Anything to free people from temptations and sin…

In the end, “Don Carnal” (Mister flesh, representing the desires of tempation) ended up seducing poor Doña Cuaresma (Miss Lenten). Even the church could not resist, being given that every year rumors spoke about nuns making a fuss, or a priest caught in the middle of a masquerade dance party…

A curious tradition in the city, though…

By the end of the 16th century, the Cadiz citizens picked up carefully the flowers that grew in the field named the Jara.

Once back to their houses, they threw the flowers from the balconies to the beautiful ladies walking on the streets, what ended up starting floral battles.

It is curious that that same field, today named Saint Anthony Square, is currently the scene of the carnival activities, especially the carnival speech.

And as there are no more flowers to collect there, we have exchanged them for colorful “papelillos”…

Modern Age

Going out from a masquerade dance party. José García Ramos. 1905.

In the centuries to come, the Royal Crown and the government also imposed their rules. Since ancient times, the carnival has known very strict seasons and others somewhat more permissive.

The monopoly of trade with the “New World” was an unprecedented economic, social and cultural enrichment. The city opened to host important musical and theatrical plays in its numerous theatres.

Even so, any public act such as wearing a mask, were harshly persecuted and punished. Only members of the high society were able to attend to masquerade dances in private venues. And this lasted only a few years well past the middle of the 18th century.

The following century, after the departure of the French, in addition to the masquerade dances, mime and dancing groups were allowed.

It is by this time when we can place the first groups of men and women who sang and danced, the «Cuadrillas», baptized later as «Comparsas».

As for the lyrics, the Independence War left numerous displays of patriotic couplets and jokes for all tastes. The “Cuadrillas” that arrived in the city, like the ones of slaves and black people, sang in their own language everything learned. Thus once again, Cadiz was enriched by Havana and Havana of Cadiz.


If you want to know more about the festivity of the carnival celebrated currently, the contest, the COAC contest, singing groups, the differents acts and much more… TO BE CONTINUED.

Be mindful…

I see you in the comments! And if you want to live this carnival, send me an email so we can design your own experience.


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