Even with six centuries of history behind it, it is still like new. The Carnival of Cadiz is coming, where the city becomes a stage and its people the stars. Just like almost every year, it will take place on February 16-26. The neighbourhoods of the historic centre, especially La Viña, will account for most of the party, officially declared an event of international tourist interest.
Cavalcades, flamenco shows, gastronomic events… it’s difficult to define Carnival, and even more so in Cadiz. Although Carnival officially starts on February 16, the city starts celebrating beforehand. Nor does the end of the celebration happen on the official day. Although February 26 is Piñata Sunday and an arsenal of fireworks close the celebrations, the following Saturday is the “little carnival,” also known in Cadiz as the carnaval de los jartibles, for those who still want more.
First are the food tasting events and the start of the Carnival group competition- with cuartetos, chirigotas, comparsas and coros (the different types of musical groups at Carnival)- which ends on February 17 with the final held at the Gran Teatro Falla. It’s a competition that brings music and performances about current life in Cadiz, Andalusia, Spain, and the world, all with a touch of humour, onto the stage (and then into the street). No one can escape the genius and irony of the lyrics at the Carnival of Cadiz.
The big final at the Teatro Falla sends the party into the street, giving the protagonism of the celebration over to the city. The opening address takes place on Saturday the 18th and is attended by masses of people in the San Antonio square. On this night, the city’s population is multiplied. The only rule is to come dressed up as anything you want and to have fun. No frills, use whatever is around. Because this carnival isn’t about glamour; it’s about the desire to laugh at oneself and dance.
Day and Night
The next day is just as big. The carnival temporarily leaves its night-time character aside and continues into the midday heat. The carousel of choirs takes to the streets of the centre. It is a pleasure to listen to them while having a drink, cheering them on and singing with them from two in the afternoon on. After being absent for several years, last year the carousel returned to Marcado Square.
Younger children can enjoy the cavalcade that crosses the Avenue in a parade of colour on Sunday the 19th at dusk. From there, on to the fireworks with the sea in the background.
On Monday the 20th the carousel of choirs once again takes the centre with a smaller audience, as it’s a public holiday only in the city of Cadiz.
During the week on work days, the volume of carnival events is slightly reduced. It’s a good opportunity to listen to the different groups of the different tablaos (flamenco club) that are set up around the city and enjoy the illegal ones in the La Viña neighbourhood into the early morning.
On Friday, February 24, the frenetic activity begins again. There are only three days left of Carnival and the inhabitants of Cadiz and visitors want to enjoy it up until the last moment. La Viña, the most typical carnival neighbourhood, welcomes a new carousel of choirs, this time at night. It’s the perfect excuse to be out on the streets of this neighbourhood all night.
On Piñata Saturday, calle de la Palma, also in La Viña, is the scene of the Little Cavalcade. Lastly, on Piñata Sunday (February 26), Carnival comes to an end with the burning of the witch Piti on the Caleta beach, while a few metres away, fireworks are launched from the San Sebastián Castle marking the end of the Carnival festivities for most. We say most, because there is still another informal weekend of festivities. There is no public holiday and it is not reflected on any official calendar, but the desire for Carnival has made the Sunday after the Piñata, this year on March 4, the time for the little carnival or the carnival of the jartibles. It’s for those that have not yet had enough after 10 days of carnival and still want to hear more songs. On this day, illegal choral groups take to the streets and perform their repertoire to a smaller audience than the one during the official carnival. It is an intimate event, unlike the crowded days of carnival when it is difficult to walk down the street. The public is mostly from the city or nearby towns and it is a good opportunity to hear the jokes and humour of these groups in a more relaxed way.
The enthusiasm of the Carnival of Cadiz has spread to other parts of the province where parallel celebrations have popped up. Although influenced by the celebrations of the capital, each has its own peculiarities. A highlight is the Great Cavalcade of the Carnival of Chipiona.
More information: www.andalucia.org