Moros y Cristianos. The popular celebration held in different cities along the Spanish coast acts out an important part of Spanish history.
Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians) is a popular celebration which is held in different cities along the Spanish coast. This festival acts out a part of Spanish history reliving the battles between the Arabs and the Christians that took place here centuries ago. One of the best places to see this fiesta is Alcoy, in Alicante, where the celebration takes place between the 22 and the 24 of April.
In Alcoy, squads of armies march all day to the rhythm of different bands. Berbers, Moroccan soldiers, Mudéjares, Abencerrages and Marinids are all preparing for war. Also participating are Andalusian bandits, Basque soldiers and a squad from Asturias. You will also find in the crowd a group of Valencian farmers armed with rustic sickles, axes and pitchforks. Everyone is prepared for battle.
Spectators line the streets to admire and cheer on the combatants. Soldiers parade through the town while sergeants salute the crowd and cavalrymen show off their riding skills. The parades go on throughout the day filing through streets filled with banners and flags but there is one flag that stands out: the red cross of Saint George. A festive mood reigns over Alcoy as the city sends its troops off to war.
Two days later the sound of war makes itself heard across the city as a cloud of gunpowder smoke spreads across the city like a thick fog. Moors and Christians confront one another all day long. In the morning the Christians are challenged for control of the city; the flag with the crescent moon waving above the walls of the castle where the flag of St. George once was. As the armies fight fervently and the battle is at its fiercest, St. George appears at the top of the castle. With his presence on the battlefield made known, the Moors begin their retreat finally giving the victory to the Christians. With that another year passes into history. The moment of maximum euphoria comes when hundreds of musket rounds are fired at once making this the noisiest festival in all of Spain.
The people Alcoy dedicate almost an entire year preparing for this fiesta since the members of the 28 filaes or factions (both Moors and Christians) take this so seriously that it is much more than a hobby. The participants meet regularly throughout the year to organize banquets, fundraise and plan the different activities that make up this fiesta. For many, April is the start and finish of the year.
All of this requires a huge investment of time and money on the part of each filae, so much so that sometimes a member or two has had to pawn a family heirloom. The costume that each person wears is not cheap and each faction has its own particular design meaning they are all tailor made. The costume an officer may wear can cost a small fortune since it usually more elaborate than that of a regular soldier. Within each faction, the role of captain rotates annually and each one competes in the hopes of winning the award for best costume. At the end of the celebration these award winning costumes will be donated to museums dedicated to this fiesta.
The designs of the costumes are not intended to be historically accurate and as such, some accessories are permitted like watches or sunglasses. There is another accessory that almost all participants carry—cigars. Even non-smokers will enjoy a cigar (or at least pretend to) although no one knows for sure how this particular tradition started. Tthe most common response to the question as to why this is a tradition is that it is "part of the fiesta". At the end of the celebration the people of Alcoy are almost always sad and their only consolation is knowing that there are only 361 days left until the next battle.