Carnival in Cadiz

  In February, Spain celebrates its big Carnival season before Lent. Similar to our Mardi Gras, it is common to dress up in costume and participate in general merry-making. The two biggest celebrations in the country are on the Canary Islands and in Cadiz, the southern port town in Andulucia. Several years back, I spent a summer study abroad in Cadiz and fell in love with the city. It is a small peninsula city with white buildings, palm trees, cutesy parks and plazas, and of course, the beach. That summer we had all our favorite spots and knew the shortcuts to everywhere. So we figured Carnival would be the perfect occasion to make a return visit.
   We arrived on Friday afternoon and had the chance to wander around the city before all the action started the next day. It was eerily quiet compared to Madrid, but I assured Caitlin that’s just how it is in Cadiz; small, tranquil, until tomorrow at least. We had been told that people come into Cadiz by train during the day, party all night, and go back on the train the next day to avoid the cost of a night in a hotel. And they weren’t kidding. These people straight roll off the train, completely decked out in  costume with nothing to their person except some money and probably alcohol. Masses made their way into the old part of the city to start the celebrations.
   Another interesting thing about these costumes is that everyone dresses up in groups. And the more outrageous or clever the outfit, the better. The most popular costumes we saw this year were chickens, babies, and Pippy Longstockings. But we saw it all. For entertainment, groups of singers pass through the streets, performing comical song routines. At night there is a big sing-off between the finalist groups, many of which have been preparing months in advance. Pretty much the whole celebration is one big outdoor drinking party, which the Spanish call “botellon”. No open container laws here- just don’t get too rowdy (aka break or steal anything). But the next day is a family friendly parade down the main street that anyone can join, so there’s fun for kiddies too. And for people like us who appreciate quality people watching.
   I was sad to leave Cadiz, but glad to be a part of this big cultural experience in one of my favorite places. Until next time….

Good to be back! Arrgg.
Based off the popular reality tv show, ‘Farmers Looking for Spouses’
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