Days 98 & 99 – No one does fiesta like the Spanish

Saturday 20th & Sunday 21st October 2018

We are in Calpe, Spain for the 4 day Moors & Christians Fiesta.

If I tried to cover these 2 days (we are doing just 2 days, not all 4) as a diary entry you would soon fall asleep. So, in an attempt to maintain your interest, please step aboard for a mini history lesson with technically inaccurate photos throughout by way of illustration.

A few important notes first:

Firstly, we are only attending 2 parts of the fiesta:

1. The Moors and Christians Parade on the Avenida Gabriel Miró

2. The Landing and First Battle at the Arenal-Bol beach.

The parade alone is a 3 hour long spectacle and partying will go on till 4am every day of the fiesta at least. We may be fit but don’t have anywhere near the stamina of the Spanish when they get into Fiesta mode.

Secondly, the Spanish are not so interested in the accuracy or authenticity of their costumes and re-enactments. It’s about spectacle. At which they excel.

Finally, the following photos are not chronological. By any stretch of the imagination.

Let me begin…

Calpe has, like most European sea ports, had a rough history. For example; The town was plundered by Barbary pirates in 1687 and the 290 townsfolk were all taken to Algeria and imprisoned for 5 years, until their liberation in exchange for gold and the release of pirate prisoners.

But defeat is not suitable fiesta material. What is needed here is a good old story of triumph over adversity. We must therefore wait almost 60 years for such a daring tale which begins early in the morning of the 22nd October 1744.

“Don’t look now Alejandro but I think it’s those pesky pirates again”

On that day the Moors, who were in league with Moncofar, a Muslim who had grown up among the Christians but turned traitor, launched an attack on the Christian citizens of Calpe with the help of the Barbary pirates. Also known as the Barbary Corsairs and/or the Ottoman Corsairs.

Let’s play “spot baddie número uno”

These pirates were a mixed bunch, hailing from just about every North African town along the Barbary coast (hence the name). Fortunately however, fiesta rules permit certain liberties with dress, costume, gender, geographical and political correctness. This allows our enthusiastic Fiesta participants pretty much free range with their costumes. Often with more than just a nod towards pantomime, Lord of the Rings and of course, Las Vegas (not that I’m complaining).

Authentic” Barbary pirates
Slightly more authentic Moors
Even more authentic looking Moors. Positively “moorish” in fact
More “Middle Earth” than Barbary coast methinks
You can tell he’s a lawless buccaneer. He’s in a no waiting zone

Anyway, back to the history lesson…

The Barbary pirates approach the Calpe beach…

A force of about 1,000 Moors and pirates landed on the beach that morning.

Authentic 1744 photographer rushes to catch the action as pirate boats nearly capsize – definitely not in the script
Don’t look now Alejandro but I think there’s one behind you.

At this time in history Calpe is a very small walled town with only about 20 houses inside the rather dilapidated walls with a consequent muster of only 60 fighting men.

20 of them went down to the beach and managed to hold off the 1,000 for about an hour and a half.

Moor and Moor they came. Geddit? ‘Moor’ instead of ‘More?’ Please yourself…

This doesn’t say much for the military capability of the attacking force. Too busy with their makeup perhaps?

Tricky putting on makeup under fire

Eventually the defenders were driven off the beach by the pirates…

Boo! Naughty pirates

…and up the hill (past the shops?) to the town.

Good guys
Bad ‘guys’
Moncofar. Baddie número dos, disappointed by the lack of Starbucks

Moncófar (read baddie) tried to smuggle the Moors into the village, but thanks to the intercession of “Caragol” (I found nothing on the internet in English, sorry)…

Good guy – sensibly parked

…who managed to close the gates to the village supposedly with help from the “Santisimo Cristo del Sudor” (no photos. Deities are notoriously camera shy), his attempts failed.

A few days later the Pirates, disgusted at the price of deck chairs and coffee, sailed away never to be seen again. Presumably they went off for a spot of gentle predation elsewhere

It’s a great show and if you ever find yourself in these parts at the end of October I thoroughly recommend a visit. Bring ear plugs.

Mrs P thinking it all terribly loud
ASIDE: I was chatting to a lovely and very enthusiastic English lady on the campsite prior to going to the festival. She explained how the participants in the fiesta take great care to ensure the authenticity of their costumes (hmmm…) and went on to say that the battle re-enactment is well worth watching as the ‘Viking‘ ships look great as they approach the beach. Ah, the British education strikes again. TREATISE ON THE SHORTCOMINGS OF THE ENGLISH EDUCATION SYSTEM ENDS
Finally, just a few shots and a very short video clip to give a mere taste of the parade. Theatre at its best. If find myself with a better internet connection sometime I will upload a longer video clip that gives a better flavour.
Nearly as good as the floats at the local fete
Whirling Dervishes and travelling band
“Mom, why are all those people staring?”
No children were harmed in the making of this Fiesta
Alejandro! Did you have to wear your glasses!?
No real elephants were harmed either
All accompanied by a dozen or more local bands…
That’s all folks. Tune in Tomorrow when we head inland to the mountains, climbing and day 100 of our big adventure!

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